The wardle instability in interstellar shocks. II. Gas temperature and line emission

David A. Neufeld, James McLellan Stone

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8 Scopus citations


We have modeled the gas temperature structure in unstable C-type shocks and obtained predictions for the resultant CO and H2 rotational line emissions, using numerical simulations of the Wardle instability presented in Paper I. Our model for the thermal balance of the gas includes ion-neutral frictional heating; compressional heating; radiative cooling due to rotational and ro-vibrational transitions of the molecules CO, H2O, and H2; and gas-grain collisional cooling. We obtained results for the gas temperature distribution in-and H2 and CO line emission from-shocks of neutral Alfvénic Mach number 10 and velocity 20 or 40 km s-1 in which the Wardle instability has saturated. Both two- and three-dimensional simulations were carried out for shocks in which the preshock magnetic field is perpendicular to the shock propagation direction, and a two-dimensional simulation was carried out for the case in which the magnetic field is obliquely oriented with respect to the shock propagation direction. Although the Wardle instability profoundly affects the density structure behind C-type shocks, most of the shock-excited molecular line emission is generated upstream of the region where the strongest effects of the instability are felt. Thus the Wardle instability has a relatively small effect on the overall gas temperature distribution in-and the emission-line spectrum from-C-type shocks, at least for the cases that we have considered. In none of the cases that we have considered thus far did any of the predicted emission-line luminosities change by more than a factor of 2.5, and in most cases the effects of instability were significantly smaller than that. Slightly larger changes in the line luminosities seem likely for three-dimensional simulations of oblique shocks, although such simulations have yet to be carried out and lie beyond the scope of this study. Given the typical uncertainties that are always present when model predictions are compared with real astronomical data, we conclude that Wardle instability does not imprint any clear observational signature on the shock-excited CO and H2 line strengths. This result justifies the use of one-dimensional steady shock models in the interpretation of observations of shock-excited line emission in regions of star formation. Our three-dimensional simulations of perpendicular shocks revealed the presence of warm filamentary structures that are aligned along the magnetic field, a result that is of possible relevance to models of water maser emission from C-type shocks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-289
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART I
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • ISM: molecules
  • Infrared: ISM: lines and bands
  • Instabilities
  • Masers
  • Molecular processes
  • Shock waves


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