Far-infrared Extinction Mapping of Infrared Dark Clouds

January 2014 • 2014ApJ...780L..29L

Authors • Lim, Wanggi • Tan, Jonathan C.

Abstract • Progress in understanding star formation requires detailed observational constraints on the initial conditions, i.e., dense clumps and cores in giant molecular clouds that are on the verge of gravitational instability. Such structures have been studied by their extinction of near-infrared and, more recently, mid-infrared (MIR) background light. It has been somewhat more of a surprise to find that there are regions that appear as dark shadows at far-infrared (FIR) wavelengths as long as ~100 μm! Here we develop analysis methods of FIR images from Spitzer-MIPS and Herschel-PACS that allow quantitative measurements of cloud mass surface density, Σ. The method builds on that developed for MIR extinction mapping by Butler & Tan, in particular involving a search for independently saturated, i.e., very opaque, regions that allow measurement of the foreground intensity. We focus on three massive starless core/clumps in the Infrared Dark Cloud (IRDC) G028.37+00.07, deriving mass surface density maps from 3.5 to 70 μm. A by-product of this analysis is the measurement of the spectral energy distribution of the diffuse foreground emission. The lower opacity at 70 μm allows us to probe to higher Σ values, up to ~1 g cm-2 in the densest parts of the core/clumps. Comparison of the Σ maps at different wavelengths constrains the shape of the MIR-FIR dust opacity law in IRDCs. We find that it is most consistent with the thick ice mantle models of Ossenkopf & Henning. There is tentative evidence for grain ice mantle growth as one goes from lower to higher Σ regions.


IPAC Authors

Wanggi Lim

Assistant Scientist