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Water vapor toward starless cores: The Herschel view
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2010 (English)In: Astronomy and Astrophysics, ISSN 0004-6361, E-ISSN 1432-0746, Vol. 521, L29- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Aims: Previous studies by the satellites SWAS and Odin provided stringent upper limits on the gas phase water abundance of dark clouds (x(H2O) < 7 × 10-9). We investigate the chemistry of water vapor in starless cores beyond the previous upper limits using the highly improved angular resolution and sensitivity of Herschel and measure the abundance of water vapor during evolutionary stages just preceding star formation. Methods: High spectral resolution observations of the fundamental ortho water (o-H2O) transition (557 GHz) were carried out with the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared onboard Herschel toward two starless cores: Barnard 68 (hereafter B68), a Bok globule, and LDN 1544 (L1544), a prestellar core embedded in the Taurus molecular cloud complex. Detailed radiative transfer and chemical codes were used to analyze the data. Results: The RMS in the brightness temperature measured for the B68 and L1544 spectra is 2.0 and 2.2 mK, respectively, in a velocity bin of 0.59 km s-1. The continuum level is 3.5 ± 0.2 mK in B68 and 11.4 ± 0.4 mK in L1544. No significant feature is detected in B68 and the 3σ upper limit is consistent with a column density of o-H2O N(o-H2O) < 2.5 × 1013 cm-2, or a fractional abundance x(o-H2O) < 1.3 × 10-9, more than an order of magnitude lower than the SWAS upper limit on this source. The L1544 spectrum shows an absorption feature at a 5σ level from which we obtain the first value of the o-H2O column density ever measured in dark clouds: N(o-H2O) = (8 ± 4) × 1012 cm-2. The corresponding fractional abundance is x(o-H2O) ≃ 5 × 10-9 at radii >7000 AU and ≃2 × 10-10 toward the center. The radiative transfer analysis shows that this is consistent with a x(o-H2O) profile peaking at ≃10-8, 0.1 pc away from the core center, where both freeze-out and photodissociation are negligible. Conclusions: Herschel has provided the first measurement of water vapor in dark regions. Column densities of o-H2O are low, but prestellar cores such as L1544 (with their high central densities, strong continuum, and large envelopes) appear to be very promising tools to finally shed light on the solid/vapor balance of water in molecular clouds and oxygen chemistry in the earliest stages of star formation. Herschel is an ESA space observatory with science instruments provided by European-led Principal Investigator consortia and with important participation from NASA.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 521, L29- p.
Keyword [en]
astrochemistry, line: formation, molecular processes, radiative transfer, stars: formation, ISM: clouds
National Category
Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-51502DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201015097ISI: 000284150900029OAI: diva2:384647
authorCount :66Available from: 2011-01-10 Created: 2011-01-10 Last updated: 2011-01-10Bibliographically approved

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Larsson, Bengt
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Department of Astronomy
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