Context. The intensities of the three widely observed radio-wavelength hyperfine structure (HFS) lines between the Λ-doublet components of the rotational ground state of CH are inconsistent with local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE) and indicate ubiquitous population inversion. While this can be qualitatively understood assuming a pumping cycle that involves collisional excitation processes, the relative intensities of the lines and in particular the dominance of the lowest frequency satellite line are not well understood. This has limited the use of CH radio emission as a tracer of the molecular interstellar medium.
Aims: We aim to investigate the nature of the (generally) weak CH ground-state masers by employing synergies between the ground-state HFS transitions themselves and the far-infrared lines near 149 μm (2 THz) that connect these levels to the first HFS-split, rotationally excited level of the 2Π1∕2 spin-orbital manifold.
Methods: We present the first interferometric observations of the CH 9 cm ground-state HFS transitions at 3.264 GHz, 3.335 GHz, and 3.349 GHz towards the four high-mass star-forming regions (SFRs) Sgr B2 (M), G34.26+0.15, W49 (N), and W51 made with the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array. We combine this data set with our high-spectral-resolution observations of the N, J = 2, 3∕2 → 1, 1∕2 transitions of CH near 149 μm observed towards the same sources made with the upGREAT receiver on SOFIA, which share common lower energy levels with the HFS transitions within the rotational ground state.
Results: Towards all four sources, we observe the 3.264 GHz lower satellite line in enhanced emission with a higher relative intensity than is expected at LTE, by a factor of between 4 and 20. Employing recently calculated collisional rate coefficients, we perform statistical equilibrium calculations with the non-LTE radiative-transfer code MOLPOP-CEP in order to model the excitation conditions traced by the ground-state HFS lines of CH and to infer the physical conditions in the emitting regions. The models account for effects of far-infrared line overlap with additional constraints provided by reliable column densities of CH estimated from the 149 μm lines.
Conclusions: The derived gas densities indicate that the CH radio emission lines (and the far-infrared absorption) arise from the diffuse and translucent outer regions of the envelopes of the SFRs as well as in such clouds located along the lines of sight. We infer temperatures ranging from 50 to 125 K. These elevated temperatures, together with astrochemical considerations, may indicate that CH is formed in material heated by the dissipation of interstellar turbulence, which has been invoked for other molecules. The excitation conditions we derive reproduce the observed level inversion in all three of the ground-state HFS lines of CH over a wide range of gas densities with an excitation temperature of ~−0.3 K, consistent with previous theoretical predictions.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Pub Date:
- June 2021
- ISM: abundances;
- ISM: clouds;
- ISM: molecules;
- ISM: lines and bands;
- methods: numerical;
- radiative transfer;
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
- Accepted for publication in A&