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- Using ultraviolet and infrared techniques, researchers investigated the origins of the tiny (approx. 10A) grains whose presence in the interstellar medium (ISM) is inferred from near-infrared photometry (Sellgren, Werner, and Dinerstein 1983; Sellgren 1984). The authors consider two possibilities: (1) that the grains are formed by condensation in stellar atmospheres; or (2) that they are formed by fragmentation of larger grains in interstellar shocks. They searched for evidence of very small grains in circumstellar environments by analyzing ultraviolet extinction curves in binaries containing hot companions, and by searching for the 3.3-micron emission feature in similar systems. The ultraviolet extinction curve analysis could be applied only to oxygen-rich systems, where small carbonaceous grains would not be expected, so these results provide only indirect information. Researchers find a deficiency of grains smaller than 800A in oxygen-rich systems, consistent with theoretical models of grain condensation which suggest that grains grow to large sizes before injection into the interstellar medium. More direct information on carbonaceous micrograins was obtained from the search for the 3.3-micron feature in carbon-rich binaries with hot companions, whose ultraviolet flux should excite the tiny grains to emit in the infrared. No 3.3-micron feature was found, suggesting that the micrograins are absent in these systems. In addition to the negative search for micrograins in circumstellar environments, researchers have also studied the possible association of these grains with shocks in the diffuse interstellar medium. Using Infrared Astronomy Satellite (IRAS) colors as indicators of the presence or absence of the small grains (e.g., Ryter, Puget, and Perault 1987 and references cited therein), researchers systematically searched for them in regions (reflection nebulae) expected to have sufficient ultraviolet flux to make them glow in the infrared. They found that the distribution is not uniform. The researchers propose that production of micrograins by fragmentation of larger grains in shocks could explain this uneven distribution.
- Other Subject(s):
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 19910005687.
Accession ID: 91N15000.
NASA, Ames Research Center, Interstellar Dust: Contributed Papers; p 405-406.
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