Journal Article

Modelling CO formation in the turbulent interstellar medium

S. C. O. Glover, C. Federrath, M.-M. Mac Low and R. S. Klessen

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 404, issue 1, pages 2-29
Published in print May 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Modelling CO formation in the turbulent interstellar medium

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We present results from high-resolution three-dimensional simulations of turbulent interstellar gas that self-consistently follow its coupled thermal, chemical and dynamical evolution, with a particular focus on the formation and destruction of H2 and CO. We quantify the formation time-scales for H2 and CO in physical conditions corresponding to those found in nearby giant molecular clouds, and show that both species form rapidly, with chemical time-scales that are comparable to the dynamical time-scale of the gas. We also investigate the spatial distributions of H2 and CO, and how they relate to the underlying gas distribution. We show that H2 is a good tracer of the gas distribution, but that the relationship between CO abundance and gas density is more complex. The CO abundance is not well-correlated with either the gas number density n or the visual extinction AV: both have a large influence on the CO abundance, but the inhomogeneous nature of the density field produced by the turbulence means that n and AV are only poorly correlated. There is a large scatter in AV, and hence CO abundance, for gas with any particular density, and similarly a large scatter in density and CO abundance for gas with any particular visual extinction. This will have important consequences for the interpretation of the CO emission observed from real molecular clouds. Finally, we also examine the temperature structure of the simulated gas. We show that the molecular gas is not isothermal. Most of it has a temperature in the range of 10–20 K, but there is also a significant fraction of warmer gas, located in low-extinction regions where photoelectric heating remains effective.

Keywords: astrochemistry; molecular processes; methods: numerical; ISM: clouds; ISM: molecules

Journal Article.  17479 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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