Herschel spectral-mapping of the Helix Nebula (NGC 7293): Extended CO photodissociation and OH+ emission [SSA]


The Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) is the closest planetary nebulae. Therefore, it is an ideal template for photochemical studies at small spatial scales in planetary nebulae. We aim to study the spatial distribution of the atomic and the molecular gas, and the structure of the photodissociation region along the western rims of the Helix Nebula as seen in the submillimeter range with Herschel. We use 5 SPIRE FTS pointing observations to make atomic and molecular spectral maps. We analyze the molecular gas by modeling the CO rotational lines using a non-local thermodynamic equilibrium (non-LTE) radiative transfer model. For the first time, we have detected extended OH+ emission in a planetary nebula. The spectra towards the Helix Nebula also show CO emission lines (from J= 4 to 8), [NII] at 1461 GHz from ionized gas, and [CI] (2-1), which together with the OH+ lines, trace extended CO photodissociation regions along the rims. The estimated OH+ column density is (1-10)x1e12 cm-2. The CH+ (1-0) line was not detected at the sensitivity of our observations. Non-LTE models of the CO excitation were used to constrain the average gas density (n(H2)=(1-5)x1e5 cm-3) and the gas temperature (Tk= 20-40 K). The SPIRE spectral-maps suggest that CO arises from dense and shielded clumps in the western rims of the Helix Nebula whereas OH+ and [CI] lines trace the diffuse gas and the UV and X-ray illuminated clumps surface where molecules reform after CO photodissociation. [NII] traces a more diffuse ionized gas component in the interclump medium.

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M. Etxaluze, J. Cernicharo, J. Goicoechea, et. al.
Wed, 9 Apr 14