Saturday, October 18, 2014

CO/H2 Abundance Ratio of RW Aurigae A's Protoplanetary Disk

CO/H2 Abundance Ratio ~ 10^{-4} in a Protoplanetary Disk


France et al


The relative abundances of atomic and molecular species in planet-forming disks around young stars provide important constraints on photochemical disk models and provide a baseline for calculating disk masses from measurements of trace species. A knowledge of absolute abundances, those relative to molecular hydrogen (H2), are challenging because of the weak rovibrational transition ladder of H2 and the inability to spatially resolve different emission components within the circumstellar environment. To address both of these issues, we present new contemporaneous measurements of CO and H2 absorption through the "warm molecular layer" of the protoplanetary disk around the Classical T Tauri Star RW Aurigae A. We use a newly commissioned observing mode of the Hubble Space Telescope-Cosmic Origins Spectrograph to detect warm H2 absorption in this region for the first time. An analysis of the emission and absorption spectrum of RW Aur shows components from the accretion region near the stellar photosphere, the molecular disk, and several outflow components. The warm H2 and CO absorption lines are consistent with a disk origin. We model the 1092-1117A spectrum of RW Aur to derive log10 N(H2)~=~19.90+0.33−0.22 at Trot(H2) ~=~440~+/-~39 K. The CO A~--~X bands observed from 1410-1520A are best fit by log10 N(CO)~=~16.1~+0.3−0.5 at Trot(CO) ~=~200+650−125 K. Combining direct measurements of the HI, H2, and CO column densities, we find a molecular fraction in the warm disk surface of fH2~>=~0.47 and derive a molecular abundance ratio of CO/H2~=~1.6+4.7−1.3~x~10−4, both consistent with canonical interstellar dense cloud values.

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