Physical State of Molecular Gas in High Galactic Latitude Translucent Clouds

James G. Ingalls, T. M. Bania, Adair P. Lane, Matthias Rumitz, Antony A. Stark
2000 Astrophysical Journal  
The rotational transitions of carbon monoxide (CO) are the primary means of investigating the density and velocity structure of the molecular interstellar medium. Here we study the lowest four rotational transitions of CO towards high-latitude translucent molecular clouds (HLCs). We report new observations of the J = (4-3), (2-1), and (1-0) transitions of CO towards eight high-latitude clouds. The new observations are combined with data from the literature to show that the emission from all
more » ... rved CO transitions is linearly correlated. This implies that the excitation conditions which lead to emission in these transitions are uniform throughout the clouds. Observed 13CO/12CO (1-0) integrated intensity ratios are generally much greater than the expected abundance ratio of the two species, indicating that the regions which emit 12CO (1-0) radiation are optically thick. We develop a statistical method to compare the observed line ratios with models of CO excitation and radiative transfer. This enables us to determine the most likely portion of the physical parameter space which is compatible with the observations. The model enables us to rule out CO gas temperatures greater than 30K since the most likely high-temperature configurations are 1 pc-sized structures aligned along the line of sight. The most probable solution is a high density and low temperature (HDLT) solution. The CO cell size is approximately 0.01 pc (2000 AU). These cells are thus tiny fragments within the 100 times larger CO-emitting extent of a typical high-latitude cloud. We discuss the physical implications of HDLT cells, and we suggest ways to test for their existence.
doi:10.1086/308831 fatcat:i4rs4rylpbapnnnph2n4avh6j4