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  1. Context. Ionized interstellar gas is an important component of the interstellar medium and its lifecycle. The recent evidence for a widely distributed highly ionized warm interstellar gas with a density intermediate between the warm ionized medium (WIM) and compact H  II regions suggests that there is a major gap in our understanding of the interstellar gas. Aims. Our goal is to investigate the properties of the dense WIM in the Milky Way using spectrally resolved SOFIA GREAT [N  II ] 205 μm fine-structure lines and Green Bank Telescope hydrogen radio recombination lines (RRL) data, supplemented by spectrally unresolved Herschel PACSmore »[N  II ] 122μm data, and spectrally resolved 12 CO. Methods. We observed eight lines of sight (LOS) in the 20° < l < 30° region in the Galactic plane. We analyzed spectrally resolved lines of [N  II ] at 205 μm and RRL observations, along with the spectrally unresolved Herschel PACS 122 μm emission, using excitation and radiative transfer models to determine the physical parameters of the dense WIM. We derived the kinetic temperature, as well as the thermal and turbulent velocity dispersions from the [N  II ] and RRL linewidths. Results. The regions with [N  II ] 205 μm emission are characterized by electron densities, n ( e ) ~ 10−35 cm −3 , temperatures range from 3400 to 8500 K, and nitrogen column densities N(N + ) ~ 7 × 10 16 to 3 × 10 17 cm −2 . The ionized hydrogen column densities range from 6 × 10 20 to 1.7 × 10 21 cm −2 and the fractional nitrogen ion abundance x (N + ) ~ 1.1 × 10 −4 to 3.0 × 10 −4 , implying an enhanced nitrogen abundance at a distance ~4.3 kpc from the Galactic Center. The [N  II ] 205 μm emission lines coincide with CO emission, although often with an offset in velocity, which suggests that the dense warm ionized gas is located in, or near, star-forming regions, which themselves are associated with molecular gas. Conclusions. These dense ionized regions are found to contribute ≳50% of the observed [C  II ] intensity along these LOS. The kinetic temperatures we derive are too low to explain the presence of N + resulting from electron collisional ionization and/or proton charge transfer of atomic nitrogen. Rather, these regions most likely are ionized by extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation from nearby star-forming regions or as a result of EUV leakage through a clumpy and porous interstellar medium.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2022
  2. ABSTRACT The current generation of (sub)mm-telescopes has allowed molecular line emission to become a major tool for studying the physical, kinematic, and chemical properties of extragalactic systems, yet exploiting these observations requires a detailed understanding of where emission lines originate within the Milky Way. In this paper, we present 60 arcsec (∼3 pc) resolution observations of many 3 mm band molecular lines across a large map of the W49 massive star-forming region (∼100 pc × 100 pc at 11 kpc), which were taken as part of the ‘LEGO’ IRAM-30m large project. We find that the spatial extent or brightness of the molecular line transitions aremore »not well correlated with their critical densities, highlighting abundance and optical depth must be considered when estimating line emission characteristics. We explore how the total emission and emission efficiency (i.e. line brightness per H2 column density) of the line emission vary as a function of molecular hydrogen column density and dust temperature. We find that there is not a single region of this parameter space responsible for the brightest and most efficiently emitting gas for all species. For example, we find that the HCN transition shows high emission efficiency at high column density (1022 cm−2) and moderate temperatures (35 K), whilst e.g. N2H+ emits most efficiently towards lower temperatures (1022 cm−2; <20 K). We determine $X_{\mathrm{CO} (1-0)} \sim 0.3 \times 10^{20} \, \mathrm{cm^{-2}\, (K\, km\, s^{-1})^{-1}}$, and $\alpha _{\mathrm{HCN} (1-0)} \sim 30\, \mathrm{M_\odot \, (K\, km\, s^{-1}\, pc^2)^{-1}}$, which both differ significantly from the commonly adopted values. In all, these results suggest caution should be taken when interpreting molecular line emission.« less