Turbulent dissipation, CH+ abundance, H2 line luminosities, and polarization in the cold neutral medium

Eric R. Moseley, B. T. Draine, Kengo Tomida, James M. Stone

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13 Scopus citations


In the cold neutral medium, high out-of-equilibrium temperatures are created by intermittent dissipation processes, including shocks, viscous heating, and ambipolar diffusion. The high-temperature excursions are thought to explain the enhanced abundance of CH+ observed along diffuse molecular sightlines. Intermittent high temperatures should also have an impact on H2 line luminosities. We carry out simulations of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence in molecular clouds including heating and cooling, and post-process them to study H2 line emission and hot-gas chemistry, particularly the formation of CH+. We explore multiple magnetic field strengths and equations of state. We use a new H2 cooling function for nH ≤ 105 cm-3, T ≤ 5000 K, and variable H2 fraction. We make two important simplifying assumptions: (i) the H2/H fraction is fixed everywhere and (ii) we exclude from our analysis regions where the ion*neutral drift velocity is calculated to be greater than 5 kms-1. Our models produce H2 emission lines in accord with many observations, although extra excitation mechanisms are required in some clouds. For realistic root-mean-square (rms) magnetic field strengths (≈10 μG) and velocity dispersions, we reproduce observed CH+ abundances. These findings contrast with those of Valdivia et al. (2017) Comparison of predicted dust polarization with observations by Planck suggests that the mean field is 5 μG, so that the turbulence is sub-Alfvénic.We recommend future work treating ions and neutrals as separate fluids to more accurately capture the effects of ambipolar diffusion on CH+ abundance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3290-3308
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Astrochemistry
  • ISM: Abundances
  • ISM: Clouds
  • ISM: Magnetic fields
  • Polarization
  • Turbulence


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