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Session 62 - Workshop on the Future of Antarctic Astrophysics - II.
Topical, Oral session, Wednesday, June 10

[62.03] Shocking Changes to Molecular Clouds

G. J. Melnick (CfA)

Supersonic motions are commonly observed in molecular clouds as evidenced by larger-than-thermal line widths measured in most species. The shocks that ensue can profoundly effect these clouds, not only dynamically, but chemically. Because shocks compress and heat the gas, chemical reactions that are extremely slow at typical molecular cloud temperatures (T\sim 10-30 K) can proceed rapidly in the wake of a shock. In many cases, compositional changes brought on by a passing shock can endure long after the gas has cooled and returned to its pre-shock state. We have used a coupled time-dependent chemical and dynamical model to investigate the lifetime of such chemical relics in the wake of non-dissociative shocks. Using a Monte Carlo cloud simulation, we explore the effects of stochastic shock activity on molecular gas over a cloud lifetime. Particular attention is paid to the chemistry of H_2O and O_2, two molecules which are predicted to have abundances that are significantly affected by shock-heated gas. Both pure gas-phase and gas-grain chemistry are considered. In agreement with previous studies, we find that shocks with velocities in excess of 10 km s^-1 can chemically process all oxygen not locked in CO into H_2O on timescales of a shock passage time (\sim\:few hundred years). For pure gas-phase models, the high water abundance lingers for \sim\,(4-7) \times 10^5 yr, independent of the gas density. A density dependence for the lifetime of H_2O is found in gas-grain models as the water molecules deplete onto grains at the depletion timescale. We demonstrate that the time-averaged abundance of H_2O and O_2 (as well as other tracers, such as SiO and CH_3OH) is a sensitive function of the frequency of shocks. As such, the abundance of H_2O, and to a lesser extent O_2, can be used to trace the shock history in molecular clouds. Equally important, we find that depletion of shock-produced water onto grains can be quite large and is comparable to that observed in molecular clouds. This offers an alternative method to create water-ice mantles without resorting to grain surface chemistry. Observationally, a combination of space-based (for H_2O and O_2) and ground-based (for SiO, CH_3OH, and others) telescopes will be needed to investigate these predictions.

Program listing for Wednesday