Large-scale CO and [C I] emission in the ρ ophiuchi molecular cloud

Craig A. Kulesa, Aimee L. Hungerford, Christopher K. Walker, Xlaolei Zhang, Adair P. Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


We present a comprehensive study of the ρ Ophiuchi molecular cloud that addresses aspects of the physical structure and condition of the molecular cloud and its photodissociation region (PDR) by combining far-infrared and submillimeter-wave observations with a wide range of angular scale and resolution. We present 1600 arcmin2 maps (2.3 pc2) with 0.1 pc resolution in submillimeter CO (4 → 3) and [C I] (3P 13P0) line emission from the Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope and Remote Observatory (AST/RO) and pointed observations in the CO (7 → 6) and [C I] (3P23P1) lines. Within the large-scale maps, smaller spectral line maps of 3000 AU resolution over ∼90 arcmin2 (0.2 pc 2) of the cloud in CO, CS, HCO+, and their rare isotopomers are made at the Heinrich Hertz Telescope (HHT) in Arizona. Comparison of CO, HCO+, and [C I] maps with far-infrared observations of atomic and ionic species from the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) far-infrared and submillimeter continuum emission and near-infrared H 2 emission allows clearer determination of the physical and chemical structure of the ρ Oph PDR, since each species probes a different physical region of the cloud structure. Although a homogeneous plane-parallel PDR model can reproduce many of the observations described here, the excitation conditions needed to produce the observed HCO+ and [O I] emission imply inhomogeneous structure. Strong chemical gradients are observed in HCO + and CS; the former is ascribed to a local enhancement in the H 2 ionization rate, and the latter is principally due to shocks. Under the assumption of a simple two-component gas model for the cloud, we find that [C II] and [C I] emission predominantly arises from the lower density envelopes (103-104 cm-3) that surround denser cloud condensations, or "clumps." The distribution of [C I] is very similar to that of C18O and is generally consistent with illumination from the "far" side of the cloud. A notable exception is found at the western edge of the cloud, where UV photons create a PDR viewed "edge-on." The abundance of atomic carbon is accurately modeled using a radiation field that decreases with increasing projected distance from the exciting star HD 147889 and a total gas column density that follows that of C18O, decreasing toward the edges of the cloud. In contrast to the conclusions of other studies, we find that no nonequilibrium chemistry is needed to enhance the [C I] abundance. Each spectral line is traced to a particular physical component of the cloud and PDR. Although CO rotational line emission originates from both dense condensations and diffuse envelopes, the millimeter-wave transitions mostly find their origins in envelope material, whereas the high-J submillimeter lines stem more from the dense clumps. Submillimeter HCO+ and infrared [O I] and [CII] emission indicate clump surface temperatures of 50-200 K, an ultraviolet radiation field with IUV ≈ 10-90, densities of 105-106 cm -3, and interior temperatures of ≤20 K. This study highlights the value of large-scale infrared and submillimeter mapping for the interpretation of molecular cloud physical and chemical structure, and important future observations are highlighted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-209
Number of pages16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - May 20 2005


  • ISM: atoms
  • ISM: clouds
  • ISM: individual (ρ Ophiuchi)
  • ISM: molecules radio lines: ISM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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