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A Survey of Molecular Hydrogen in the Crab Nebula

By E. D. Loh, J. A. Baldwin, Z. K. Curtis, G. J. Ferland, C. R. O'Dell, A. C. Fabian and Philippe Salomé


We have carried out a near-infrared, narrow-band imaging survey of the Crab Nebula, in the H2 2.12 micron and Br-gamma 2.17 micron lines, using the Spartan Infrared camera on the SOAR Telescope. Over a 2.8' x 5.1' area that encompasses about 2/3 of the full visible extent of the Crab, we detect 55 knots that emit strongly in the H2 line. We catalog the observed properties of these knots. We show that they are in or next to the filaments that are seen in optical-passband emission lines. Comparison to HST [S II] and [O III] images shows that the H2 knots are strongly associated with compact regions of low-ionization gas. We also find evidence of many additional, fainter H2 features, both discrete knots and long streamers following gas that emits strongly in [S II]. A pixel-by-pixel analysis shows that about 6 percent of the Crab's projected surface area has significant H2 emission that correlates with [S II] emission. We measured radial velocities of the [S II] lambda6716 emission lines from 47 of the cataloged knots and find that most are on the far (receding) side of the nebula. We also detect Br-gamma emission. It is right at the limit of our survey, and our Br-gamma filter cuts off part of the expected velocity range. But clearly the Br-gamma emission has a quite different morphology than the H2 knots, following the long linear filaments that are seen in H-alpha and in [O III] optical emission lines.Comment: Accepted for publication in the ApJ

Topics: Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1088/0067-0049/194/2/30
OAI identifier:
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