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A Formaldehyde Deep Field

Status Report From: arXiv.org e-Print archive
Posted: Monday, April 1, 2019

Jeremy Darling

(Submitted on 28 Mar 2019)

Formaldehyde (H2CO) is often observed at centimeter wavelengths as an absorption line against the cosmic microwave background (CMB). This is possible when energy level populations are cooled to the point where line excitation temperatures fall below the local CMB temperature. Collisions with molecular hydrogen "pump" this anti-maser excitation, and the cm line ratios of H2CO provide a measurement of the local H2 density. H2CO absorption of CMB light provides all of the benefits of absorption lines (no distance dimming) but none of the drawbacks: the CMB provides uniform illumination of all molecular gas in galaxies (no pencil beam sampling), and all galaxies lie in front of the CMB - no fortuitous alignments with background light sources are needed. A formaldehyde deep field (FDF) would therefore provide a blind, mass-limited survey of molecular gas across the history of star formation and galaxy evolution. Moreover, the combination of column density and number density measurements may provide geometric distances in large galaxy samples and at higher redshifts than can be done using the Sunyaev Zel'dovich effect in galaxy clusters. We present a fiducial FDF that would span redshifts z=0-7 and provide H2CO line ratios to measure n(H2) for z > 0.45.

Comments: Science White Paper submitted to the Astro2020 Decadal Survey. 3 Figures, 7 pages. arXiv admin note: substantial text overlap with arXiv:1810.03690

Subjects: Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA)

Cite as: arXiv:1904.00803 [astro-ph.GA] (or arXiv:1904.00803v1 [astro-ph.GA] for this version)

Submission history

From: Jeremy Darling

[v1] Thu, 28 Mar 2019 19:50:14 UTC (340 KB)

https://arxiv.org/abs/1904.00803

Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

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