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Astron. Astrophys. 352, 659-664 (1999)

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Carbon chain abundance in the diffuse interstellar medium

L.J. Allamandola, D.M. Hudgins, C.W. Bauschlicher Jr. and S.R. Langhoff

NASA Ames Research Center, MS 245-6, Moffett Field, CA 94034-1000, USA (lallamandola@mail.arc.nasa.gov)

Received 23 July 1999 / Accepted 16 August 1999


Thanks to the mid-IR sensitivities of the ISO and IRTS orbiting spectrometers it is now possible to search the diffuse interstellar medium for heretofore inaccessible molecular emission. In view of the recent strong case for the presence of C[FORMULA] (Kirkwood et al. 1998, Tulej et al. 1998), and the fact that carbon chains possess prominent infrared active modes in a very clean portion of the interstellar spectrum, we have analyzed the IRTS spectrum of the diffuse interstellar medium for the infrared signatures of these species. Theoretical and experimental infrared band frequencies and absolute intensities of many different carbon chain species are presented. These include cyanopolyynes, neutral and anionic linear carbon molecules, and neutral and ionized, even-numbered, hydrogenated carbon chains. We show that - as a family - these species have abundances in the diffuse ISM on the order of 10-10 with respect to hydrogen, values consistent with their abundances in dense molecular clouds. Assuming an average length of 10 C atoms per C-chain implies that roughly a millionth of the cosmically available carbon is in the form of carbon chains and that carbon chains can account for a few percent of the visible to near-IR diffuse interstellar band (DIB) total equivalent width (not DIB number).

Key words: molecular data – molecular processes – ISM: abundances – ISM: general – ISM: molecules – infrared: ISM: lines and bands

Send offprint requests to: L.J. Allamandola (lallamandola@mail.arc.nasa.gov)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1999

Online publication: December 2, 1999