Interstellar H3+ line absorption toward LkHα 101

Sean D. Brittain, Theodore Simon, Craig Kulesa, Terrence W. Rettig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We present a detection of three lines of the H3+ ion in the near-infrared spectrum of the Herbig Be star LkHα 101. H 3+ is the principal initiator of gas-phase chemistry in interstellar clouds and can be used to constrain the ionization rate or the path length through interstellar material along the line of sight. Essentially all of the observed H3+ column of (2.2 ± 0.3) × 1014 cm-2 toward LkHα] 101 originates in the same dense, dark cloud; less than 1 mag of the ∼11 total magnitudes of visual extinction is attributable to diffuse material. Constraints on the density [1 × 104 cm-3 < n(H2) < 4 × 104 cm-3], along with estimates of distances to the obscuring cloud, imply H2 ionization rates of 6.7 × 10 -17 s-1 < ζ < 2.7 × 10-16 s-1. The nondetection of fluorescent H2 emission at the cloud surface implies that the obscuring dark cloud is located at least 20 pc from LkHα 101 and is therefore decoupled from its evolution. The confirmation of significant H3+ in dense material addresses earlier concerns that H3+ may originate in diffuse material surrounding dense clouds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)911-916
Number of pages6
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - May 10 2004


  • Cosmic rays
  • ISM: clouds
  • ISM: molecules
  • Infrared: ISM
  • Stars: individual (LkHα 101)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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