An HST/COS survey of molecular hydrogen in DLAs & sub-DLAs at z < 1: Molecular fraction and excitation temperature

S. Muzahid, R. Srianand, J. Charlton

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We present the results of a systematic search for molecular hydrogen (H2) in low-redshift (0.05 ≲ z ≲ 0.7) Damped Lyα absorbers (DLAs) and sub-DLAs with N(H I) ≳ 1019.0 cm-2, in the archival Hubble Space Telescope/CosmicOrigins Spectrograph spectra.Our core sample is comprised of 27 systems with a median logN(H I) = 19.6. On the average, our survey is sensitive down to logN(H2)=14.4 corresponding to a molecular fraction of log fH2 = -4.9 at the median N(H I). H2 is detected in 10 cases (3/5 DLAs and 7/22 sub-DLAs) down to this fH2 limit. The H2 detection rate of 50-12 +25 per cent seen in our sample, is a factor of ≳2 higher than that of the high-z sample of Noterdaeme et al., for systems with N(H2) > 1014.4 cm-2. In spite of having N(H I) values typically lower by a factor of 10, low-z H2 systems show molecular fractions (log fH2 = -1.93 ± 0.63) that are comparable to the high-z sample. The rotational excitation temperatures (T01 = 133 ± 55 K), as measured in our low-z sample, are typically consistent with high-z measurements. Simple photoionization models favour a radiation field much weaker than the mean Galactic interstellar medium field for a particle density in the range 10-100 cm-3. The impact parameters of the identified host-galaxy candidates are in the range 10 ≲ ρ (kpc) ≲ 80. We, therefore, conjecture that the low-z H2 bearing gas is not related to star-forming discs but stems from self-shielded, tidally stripped or ejected disc-material in the extended halo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2840-2853
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 11 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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