Evidence for Two-step Excitation of Extended Red Emission: PAH Di-Cations as Possible ERE Carriers?

Type Conference Paper
Names A. N. Witt, K. D. Gordon, U. P. Vijh, P. H. Sell, T. L. Smith, R.-H. Xie
Conference Name IAU Symposium
Volume 235
Pages 235P
Date 2005
Short Title Evidence for Two-step Excitation of Extended Red Emission
URL http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2005IAUS..235P.235W
Library Catalog NASA ADS
Abstract The carrier of the dust-associated photoluminescence process causing the extended red emission (ERE) in many dusty interstellar environments remains unidentified. Several competing models are more or less able to match the observed broad, unstructured ERE band. We have constrained the character of the ERE carrier further by determining the wavelengths of the radiation that initiates the ERE. Using the imaging capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope, we have resolved the width of narrow ERE filaments appearing on the surfaces of externally illuminated molecular clouds and compared them with the depth of penetration of radiation of known wavelengths into the same cloud surfaces. We identified photons with wavelengths shortward of 118 nm as the source of ERE initiation, not to be confused with ERE excitation, however. There are strong indications from the well-studied ERE in the Red Rectangle nebula and in the high-|b| Galactic cirrus that the photon flux with wavelengths shortward of 118 nm is too small to actually excite the observed ERE, even with 100% quantum efficiency. We conclude, therefore, that ERE excitation results from a two-step process. The first step , involving far-UV photons with E > ~ 10.5 eV, leads to the creation of the ERE carrier, most likely through photo-ionization or photo-dissociation of an existing precursor. The second step, involving more abundant near-UV/optical photons, consists of the optical pumping of the previously created carrier, followed by subsequent de-excitation via photoluminescence. The latter process can occur many times for a single particle, depending upon the lifetime of the ERE carrier in its active state. While none of the previously proposed ERE models can match these new constraints, we note that under interstellar conditions most polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules are ionized to the di-cation stage by photons with E > 10.5 eV and that the electronic energy level structure of PAH di-cations is consistent with fluorescence in the wavelength band of the ERE. Therefore, PAH di-cations deserve further study as potential carriers of the ERE.
Tags ISM: MOLECULES, ISM: individual: NGC 7023, RADIATION MECHANISMS: THERMAL, techniques: high angular resolution
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