Using physical models, we study the sensitivity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) emission spectra to the character of the illuminating starlight, to the PAH size distribution, and to the PAH charge distribution. The starlight models considered range from the emission from a 3 Myr old starburst, rich in far-ultraviolet (FUV) radiation, to the FUV-poor spectrum of the very old population of the M31 bulge. A wide range of starlight intensities is considered. The effects of reddening in dusty clouds are investigated for different starlight spectra. For a fixed PAH abundance parameter q PAH (the fraction of the total dust mass in PAHs with <103 C atoms), the fraction of the infrared power appearing in the PAH emission features can vary by a factor of two as the starlight spectrum varies from FUV-poor (M31 bulge) to FUV-rich (young starburst). We show how q PAH can be measured from the strength of the 7.7 μm emission. The fractional power in the 17 μm feature can be suppressed by high starlight intensities.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science