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Self-absorption in [C II], 12CO, and H I in RCW120. Building up a geometrical and physical model of the region

Abstract :
Aims: Revealing the 3D dynamics of H II region bubbles and their associated molecular clouds and H I envelopes is important for developing an understanding of the longstanding problem as to how stellar feedback affects the density structure and kinematics of the different phases of the interstellar medium.
Methods: We employed observations of the H II region RCW 120 in the [C II] 158 μm line, observed within the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) legacy program FEEDBACK, and in the 12CO and 13CO (3 →2) lines, obtained with the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) to derive the physical properties of the gas in the photodissociation region (PDR) and in the molecular cloud. We used high angular resolution H I data from the Southern Galactic Plane Survey to quantify the physical properties of the cold atomic gas through H I self-absorption. The high spectral resolution of the heterodyne observations turns out to be essential in order to analyze the physical conditions, geometry, and overall structure of the sources. Two types of radiative transfer models were used to fit the observed [C II] and CO spectra. A line profile analysis with the 1D non-LTE radiative transfer code SimLine proves that the CO emission cannot stem from a spherically symmetric molecular cloud configuration. With a two-layer multicomponent model, we then quantified the amount of warm background and cold foreground gas. To fully exploit the spectral-spatial information in the CO spectra, a Gaussian mixture model was introduced that allows for grouping spectra into clusters with similar properties.
Results: The CO emission arises mostly from a limb-brightened, warm molecular ring, or more specifically a torus when extrapolated in 3D. There is a deficit of CO emission along the line-of-sight toward the center of the H II region which indicates that the H II region is associated with a flattened molecular cloud. Self-absorption in the CO line may hide signatures of infalling and expanding molecular gas. The [C II] emission arises from an expanding [C II] bubble and from the PDRs in the ring/torus. A significant part of [C II] emission is absorbed in a cool (~60-100 K), low-density (<500 cm−3) atomic foreground layer with a thickness of a few parsec.
Conclusions: We propose that the RCW 120 H II region formed in a flattened, filamentary, or sheet-like, molecular cloud and is now bursting out of its parental cloud. The compressed surrounding molecular layer formed a torus around the spherically expanding H II bubble. This scenario can possibly be generalized for other H II bubbles and would explain the observed "flat" structure of molecular clouds associated with H II bubbles. We suggest that the [C II] absorption observed in many star-forming regions is at least partly caused by low-density, cool, H I -envelopes surrounding the molecular clouds.

The 12CO and 13CO (3 →2) data shown in Fig. 4 are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to ( or via

The [C II] data are provided at the NASA/IPAC Infrared science archive at

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Contributor : Nathalie POTHIER Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Friday, May 13, 2022 - 7:49:15 PM
Last modification on : Saturday, June 25, 2022 - 3:17:09 AM


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S. Kabanovic, N. Schneider, V. Ossenkopf-Okada, F. Falasca, R. Güsten, et al.. Self-absorption in [C II], 12CO, and H I in RCW120. Building up a geometrical and physical model of the region. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 2022, 659, ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/202142575⟩. ⟨insu-03667464⟩



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