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The Amazing Molecular Content of Planetary Nebulae: Detections of HCN and HCO⁺ in Nine New Sources

Published onJun 01, 2020
The Amazing Molecular Content of Planetary Nebulae: Detections of HCN and HCO⁺ in Nine New Sources

Initially, it was thought that remnant molecular material from the asymptotic giant branch stage of a 1-8 solar mass star’s life should be rapidly photodissociated by the increasing flux of ultraviolet (UV) photons in the planetary nebula (PN) phase. Molecular detections in over 20 PNe have shown otherwise, indicating that polyatomic compounds as complex as CH3CN and CH2NH can survive the PN stage. In order further establish the molecular content of PNe, we have conducted a search for the J = 1 → 0 and the J = 3 → 2 transitions of HCN and HCO+ in fourteen additional PNe using the Arizona Radio Observatory 12-m and Submillimeter Telescopes. To date, HCN and HCO+ have been detected in at least one transition in nine of these nebulae each. The current results of this search will be presented, including a radiative transfer analysis of the spectra to establish physical conditions and abundances. These findings strengthen the argument that polyatomic molecules are a common constituent of PN ejecta. PNe therefore seed diffuse clouds with molecular material, accounting for the as yet unexplained polyatomic species observed in these objects.

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