The First Detection of 13CH in the Interstellar Medium

Wednesday, October 07, 2020 - 9:00am PDT
Arshia Jacob
Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy
Event Type: 

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The ubiquity of molecules containing carbon in the interstellar medium has turned the determination of the ratio between the abundances of the two stable isotopes of carbon, 12C/13C, into a cornerstone for Galactic chemical evolution studies. Whilst displaying a rising gradient with galactocentric distance, this ratio, when measured using observations of different molecules (CO, H2CO, and others), shows systematic variations depending on the tracer used. These observed inconsistencies may arise from optical depth effects, chemical fractionation, or isotope-selective photo-dissociation. In recent years, a plethora of observations with high spectral resolution of sub-millimetre and far-infrared transitions of methylidene (CH), conducted with Herschel and SOFIA, have demonstrated this radical to be a valuable proxy for molecular hydrogen that can be used for characterising molecular gas within the interstellar medium on a Galactic scale, including the CO-dark component. Further having been formed from C+ either through UV-driven or turbulence-driven chemistry, CH reflects the fractionation of C+, and does not show any significant fractionation effects, unlike other molecules that were previously used to determine the 12C/13C isotopic ratio. This makes it an ideal tracer for the 12C/13C ratio throughout the Galaxy. In this talk I will present our discovery of the 13CH isotopologue in the interstellar medium at 2THz, made using the upGREAT receiver on board SOFIA toward high-mass star-forming regions Sgr B2(M), G34.26+0.15, W49(N), and W51E and further discuss the new constraints it provides in determinations of the Galactic 12C/13C isotopic gradient.

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