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Detection of a Noble Gas Molecular Ion, 36ArH+, in the Crab Nebula

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Detection of a Noble Gas Molecular Ion, 36ArH+, in the Crab Nebula

M J Barlow et al. Science.

Abstract

Noble gas molecules have not hitherto been detected in space. From spectra obtained with the Herschel Space Observatory, we report the detection of emission in the 617.5- and 1234.6-gigahertz J = 1-0 and 2-1 rotational lines of (36)ArH(+) at several positions in the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant known to contain both molecular hydrogen and regions of enhanced ionized argon emission. Argon-36 is believed to have originated from explosive nucleosynthesis in massive stars during core-collapse supernova events. Its detection in the Crab Nebula, the product of such a supernova event, confirms this expectation. The likely excitation mechanism for the observed (36)ArH(+) emission lines is electron collisions in partially ionized regions with electron densities of a few hundred per centimeter cubed.

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