Blue Luminescence and the Presence of Small Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in the Interstellar Medium

Vijh, Uma P., Witt, Adolf N., & Gordon, Karl D.
2005, The Astrophysical Journal, 633, 262


Blue luminescence (BL) was first discovered in a proto-planetary nebula, the Red Rectangle (RR), surrounding the post-AGB star HD 44179. BL has been attributed to fluorescence by small, 3-4 ringed neutral polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules and was thought to be unique to the RR environment, where such small molecules are actively being produced and shielded from the harsh interstellar radiation by a dense circumstellar disk. In this paper we present the BL spectrum detected in several ordinary reflection nebulae illuminated by stars having temperatures between 10,000 and 23,000 K. All these nebulae are known to also exhibit the infrared emission features called aromatic emission features (AEFs) attributed to large PAHs. We present the spatial distribution of the BL in these nebulae. In the case of Ced 112, the BL is spatially correlated with mid-IR emission structures attributed to AEFs. These observations provide evidence for grain processing and possibly for in situ formation of small grains and large molecules from larger aggregates. Most importantly, the detection of BL in these ordinary reflection nebulae suggests that the BL carrier is an ubiquitous component of the interstellar medium and is not restricted to the particular environment of the RR.

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