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Dynamical photo-dissociation regions: modelling and observations


Photo-Dissociation Regions (PDRs) represent an impressive fraction of the gas of a galaxy and constitute a very active research area in astrophysics. Understanding PDRs is a key for understanding the life cycle of galaxies.

Recent observations lead by the Madrid and Paris groups have established that a very rich dust and carbon chemistry is taking place in PDRs. Several theoretical models, for instance by the team from the Observatoire de Paris, including the thermal structure, the chemistry and the radiative transfer of dust continuum and atomic/molecular lines have been developed to explain PDRs observations.

These codes solve the problem assuming local thermal and chemical equilibrium. Nevertheless, these stationary models cannot explain the most outstanding properties recently observed in the organic chemistry. Besides, 'real' PDRs have velocity and density gradients as well as moving dissociation fronts not taken into account by static models.

Understanding dust and carbon chemistry is of prime importance as a step forward to understand the formation of complex organic species (such as the PAHs or fullerenes) and of prebiotic material, which may be related with the origin of life. Due to the dominant role and ubiquity of PDRs, new observational strategies and further theoretical studies including more realistic phenomena are strongly required.

This project proposes the development of a new simulation model of non-stationary PDR based on the stationary model of the Paris team and a multi-wavelength study (from infrared Spitzer Space Telescope observations to millimetre line and continuum observations) of the most important PDRs, drawing special attention to the dust and carbon chemistry.

This research will offer valuable contribution to the preparatory studies required in the Herschel Space Observatory (ESA) and in ALMA (ESO & NSF) and will make use of telescopes available to the EU scientists through programs such as Radionet.

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