Astrochemistry in the Age of Broadband Radio Astronomy

Corby, Joanna, Astronomy - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Remijan, Anthony, Astronomy, University of Virginia/National Radio Astronomy Observatory

This dissertation explores the challenges and advancements introduced by the arrival of new-generation radio telescopes for understanding the physical and chemical structure of the Interstellar Medium (ISM). New-generation broadband radio instruments, and particularly broadband interferometers, provide the opportunity to obtain a comprehensive view of the coupled physical and chemical structure of the interstellar medium (ISM). This is required in order to transform the field of astrochemistry into a predictive science with diagnostic power for astronomy.

However, significant challenges are posed by the new wealth of data, and in order to extract even a reasonable fraction of the capacity of these data sets, automated data andling is necessary. This work addresses the challenge with scripts written to perform automated spectral line fitting and semi-automated line identification in order to fully characterize broadband data sets. Besides providing scientific results from the spectral analysis, the spectral characterization is a required first step needed in order to interpret spatial distribution information. We test the performance of the scripts on spectral line data from 4 to 6 GHz and 30 to 50 GHz towards the most complex spectral line source in the Galaxy, namely the high mass star forming region Sagittarius B2 (Sgr B2).

Additionally, the results of the automated line fitter are coupled with image data to constrain the physical and chemical conditions in gas located in Sgr B2(N). This material contains multiple exotic molecules of prebiotic relevance, and the gas conditions include moderate densities, warm temperatures, and a complex mechanical and radiative environment with shocks and turbulence as well as strong UV, X-ray, and cosmic ray irradiation.

Finally, we utilize broadband single dish and interferometric data to explore the coupled physical and chemical structure of material in diffuse and translucent clouds located in the Galactic Center and disk. The data reveal systematic differences in the chemical content and physical structure between Galactic Center and disk clouds. Furthermore, interferometric data collected for a different purpose directly observes the inhomogeneous structure of the diffuse and translucent media, opening up new opportunities for understanding the layered physical and chemical structure of the diffuse and translucent ISM.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: