SMA Proposal 2015A: Constraining the Depths of Filaments




Scientific Justification

Herschel observations of nearby molecular clouds find ubiquitous filamentary morphology of dust emission projected on the plane of sky (André et al. 2010). Constraining the “depths" of these filamentary structures along the line of sight is very important as project effects play a critical role in the interpretation of observational results including density profiles (Juvela et al. 2012), mass-size relation (Kauffmann et al. 2010), linewidth-size relation (Shetty et al. 2010), and kinematics (Dib et al. 2010). A filament, as a projected two-dimensional structure, can be consistent with various theoretical models. For example, a “pancake-like" structure in the third dimension has been suggested by numerical simulations with supersonic turbulence and strong magnetic fields (Nakamura & Li 2008) as well as those simulations with converging flows (Ballesteros-Paredes et al. 1999). In addition, a “cigar-like" structure may be generated from pure turbulence-driven MHD simulations (Padoan et al. 2001). A few simulations suggest that gravitationally-driven clouds will collapse to sheet-like structures under the influence of self-gravity (Lin et al. 1965).

Investigating the depths of filamentary structures observationally provides a valuable tool to discern between theoretical scenarios and thus provides insights to the formation mechanism of these structures. However, the spatial structure in the line of sight dimension of a single filament is rarely examined (cf., Li et al. 2012). The line of sight “depths” can be derived from the comparison between volume density and column density, and the dependence of the Spectral Correlation Function on the spatial scales of self-similarity. Here we propose to observe the N_2H^+ (3-2) and the ^13CO (2-1)/C^18O (2-1) molecular line emission in the filament FN1 in the Serpens Main molecular cloud. The proposed observations will allow us to independently derive and compare the depths of filaments using these two methods.

The 1st method: Depths measured by comparing volume density and column density

The excitation of molecular transitions is sensitive to the local volume density. The ratio of emission from a higher transition to that from a lower transition is characterized by a sharp transition as a function of volume density (Fig. 1; Green & Chapman 1978, Wernli et al. 2007). For example, by measuring multiple transitions of cyanoacetylene (HC_3N), Avery et al. (1982) and Schloerb et al. (1983) derived a volume density for the TMC-1 region, and thus the line of sight depths of the region by comparing to the column density measurements. Also, Li et al. (2012) applied the same method to the Taurus B213 filament (Li et al. 2012) with HC_3N (4-3) and (10-9) transitions. The result in B213 successfully re-confirms that B213 is a cylindrical filament (Hacar et al. 2013) and has a depth of 0.12 pc in the line of sight direction. This result also conforms with the width in the plane of sky of ~ 0.1 pc, as derived from the density profile across the filament (Pelmeirim et al. 2013).

The 2nd method: