Probing Potential Protostars: H$_2$CO in the Serpens Cloud Core

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Session 91 -- Young Stars and Young Clusters
Oral presentation, Wednesday, 11, 1995, 10:00am - 11:30am

[91.02] Probing Potential Protostars: H$_2$CO in the Serpens Cloud Core

R.L.Hurt, M.Barsony (UC Riverside), A.Wootten (NRAO)

In studying the processes of cloud collapse and subsequent star formation, one wishes to detect protostellar sources at increasingly earlier stages of their evolution. Identification of such sources. which are heavily extincted by their surrounding clouds, hinges on both continuum mapping and molecular line observations. We present results from molecular CSO observations of a selection of protostellar sources buried deep within the Serpens Cloud Core.

The Serpens Cloud Core is a rich region of star formation containing many deeply embedded objects. Near infrared images of this region reveal dozens of near infrared sources with no optical counterparts. Subsequent millimeter continuum mapping has identified a number of sources within the cloud, several of which are potential ``Class 0" protostars: objects that are so deeply embedded that they have no infrared counterparts to their millimeter continuum emission.

We have chosen several transitions of the para-formaldahyde molecule as probes of the gas conditions in the millimeter continuum sources within Serpens. H$_2$CO is particularly well-suited for studying gas properties in regions of protostellar collapse. Its near frequency transitions from different K-ladders and low optical depths make it a more reliable indicator of temperature and density in dense clouds than other common molecular species.

We detect strong molecular emission from most of these submillimeter continuum sources in Serpens. Molecular species present include H$_2$CO, HCN, and CH$_3$OH. We present the derived cloud properties for these sources and identify new Class 0 protostar candidates which have warm cores and may possess significant molecular outflows.

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