Understanding strong H2 emission in astronomical environments

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Here I describe recent studies of objects with H2 emission that is strong relative to other spectral lines. Large telescopes and fast spectrometers have made the 2 µm window accessible even for relatively faint objects. I summarize several environments where strong H2 2.121 µm emission is observed. The line is hard to excite due to its large excitation potential, and is most emissive in regions that have temperatures that are nearly high enough to dissociate H2. I outline several case studies. In the Helix planetary nebula strong emission is produced by rapidly flowing molecular gas that is exposed to an intense ionizing radiation field. This advective production of H2 is a fundamentally non-equilibrium process. In the filaments surrounding brightest cluster galaxies in cool core clusters ionizing particles penetrate into magnetically confined molecular cores and excite the gas. Finally, I outline ongoing work on the Crab Nebula, where the first complete maps of molecular emission have only recently been completed. Both ionizing particles and high-energy photons may be important. Finally I speculate on the origin of the correlation between H2 / H I intensity ratios and other properties found in Active Galaxies. This is suggestive of a hardening of the radiation field along the Eigenvector 1 sequence. In all of this work I take the approach of understanding H2 emission along with emission from low and moderate ionization species, a necessary step if we are to really understand the context in which H2 emission forms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of Science
StatePublished - 2011
Event2011 Narrow-Line Seyfert 1 Galaxies and their Place in the Universe, NLS1 2011 - Milano, Italy
Duration: Apr 4 2011Apr 6 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I want to thank my H2 collaborators Jack Baldwin, Andy Fabian, Roderick Johnstone, and Ed Loh, and Philippe Salome for many helpful discussions. Support by NSF (0908877), NASA (07-ATFP07-0124, 10-ATP10-0053, and 10-ADAP10-0073) and STScI (HST-AR-12125.01 and HST-GO-12309) are gratefully acknowledged.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright owned by the author(s).

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