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Astrophys J. 1992 Nov 1;399:134-46.

Infrared spectroscopy of dense clouds in the C-H stretch region: methanol and "diamonds."

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NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA 94035.


High spectral resolution (nu/delta nu = 900) studies in the 3100-2600 cm-1 (3.2-3.9 microns) range are presented of the protostars NGC 7538 IRS 9, W33A, W3 IRS 5, and S140 IRS 1. This is the spectral region in which the fundamental C-H stretching vibrations of aliphatic hydrocarbons fall. Well-resolved absorption bands at about 2825 cm-1 (3.54 microns) and 2880 cm-1 (3.47 microns) were found superposed on the low-frequency wing of the strong O-H stretch feature. The 2880 cm-1 (3.47 microns) band, a new interstellar feature, is moderately strong in the spectra of all four objects studied. The 2825 cm-1 (3.54 microns) band, previously detected toward W33A, is also in the spectrum of NGC 7538 IRS 9. The relative strength of these two bands varies, showing that they are associated with two different carriers. On the basis of comparisons with laboratory spectra, the 2825 cm-1 (3.54 microns) band is assigned to methanol (CH3OH), in agreement with the earlier work of Grim et al. (1991). This assignment is further supported by a pair of weak absorptions centered at 2600 and 2540 cm-1 (3.85 and 3.94 microns) in the spectrum of W33A recently reported by Geballe (1991). These features compare very well with laboratory spectra of CH3OH/H2O ice mixtures. The CH3OH/H2O ratio derived from the 2825 cm-1 methanol band and the 3250 cm-1 (3.08 microns) H2O feature are 0.13 and 0.40 for NGC 7538 IRS 9 and W33A, respectively. These values are smaller than the ratios of 0.61 and 0.54 derived using the 1460 cm-1 (6.85 microns) band assigned to CH3OH and the 1665 cm-1 (6.00 microns) H2O band. These apparent discrepancies may be due to a combination of scattering effects within the molecular cloud, uncertainties associated with the baselines for the 2825 cm-1 feature, and the presence of other interstellar grain materials that absorb at 1460 cm-1 (6.85 microns). Nonetheless, after H2O, CH3OH is the most abundant known interstellar ice constituent. The new band at about 2880 cm-1 (3.47 microns) falls near the position for C-H stretching vibrations in tertiary carbon atoms. The strength of this feature, in combination with the lack of strong features associated with primary (-CH3) and secondary (-CH2-) carbon atoms, suggests that the carrier of the new feature has a diamond-like structure. We therefore tentatively attribute this new feature to interstellar "diamonds." The detection of this band in the spectra of all four dense molecular clouds suggests that the carrier is ubiquitous in dense clouds. Band-strength analysis indicates that a minimum of a few percent of the available cosmic carbon is tied up in this material.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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