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Can Formaldehyde Absorption Measurements Resolve the Kinematic Distance Ambiguity?

Presentation #333.07 in the session Molecular Clouds, HII Regions, and the ISM II.

Published onJun 29, 2022
Can Formaldehyde Absorption Measurements Resolve the Kinematic Distance Ambiguity?

Kinematic distance determinations are complicated by a kinematic distance ambiguity (KDA) within the Solar orbit. For an axisymmetric Galactic rotation model, two distances, a “near” and “far” distance, have the same radial velocity. Formaldehyde (H2CO) absorption measurements have been used to resolve the KDA toward Galactic HII regions. This method relies on the detection of H2CO absorption against the broadband radio continuum emission from HII regions. H2CO absorption at velocities between the HII region velocity and the maximum velocity along the line of sight (the tangent point velocity) implies that the HII region lies at the far kinematic distance whereas a lack of absorption implies that it lies at the near kinematic distance. The reliability of KDA resolutions using H2CO is unclear, however, as disagreements between distances derived using H2CO absorption and those derived using other methods are common. Here we use new H2CO and radio recombination line data from the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) Diffuse Ionized Gas Survey (GDIGS) to test whether H2CO absorption measurements can accurately resolve the KDA for 44 Galactic HII regions that have known distances from maser parallax measurements. For each of the 44 HII regions we determine whether the parallax distance is consistent with either the near or the far kinematic distance. We find that the Galactic distribution of H2CO is too sparse to reliably determine whether an HII region is at its near kinematic distance. The H2CO method also incorrectly resolves the KDA for 80% of HII regions that it places at the far kinematic distance; in such cases H2CO absorption may be caused by other sources of radio continuum emission (possibly the CMB, diffuse free-free, or synchrotron). Our results indicate that the H2CO method is unsuitable to resolve the KDA toward Galactic HII regions.

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