AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 71. Between the Stars II: The ISM, Galactic and Extragalactic
Display, Wednesday, June 2, 1999, 10:00am-6:30pm, Southwest Exhibit Hall

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[71.04] A New Probe of the Molecular Gas Content in Galaxies: Application to M101

D.A. Smith, R.J. Allen, R.C. Bohlin (STScI), N. Nicholson (McGill), T.P. Stecher (NASA/GSFC)

Studies of nearby spiral galaxies suggest that photodissociation regions (PDRs) are capable of producing the observed large--scale distribution of HI (Allen et al.~1997, and references therein). The column density of HI in a PDR is fundamentally linked to the amount of far--ultraviolet (FUV) emission produced by nearby young stars and the local molecular gas volume density. Measurements of the HI column density and the FUV emission associated with PDRs thus provide a new probe of the molecular gas distribution in nearby galaxies. Advantages of this method include its insensitivity to assumptions about the CO/{\rm H2} conversion factor or the gas temperature.

We discuss the application of this method to M101. The HI column density and FUV emission have been measured for 35 PDRs from VLA data (Braun 1997) and Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope data (Waller et al.~1997). We derive volume densities ranging from n ~100 {\rm cm-3} in the central HI--poor regions of M101 to n ~3000 {\rm cm-3} in the HI--rich periphery of the galaxy.

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