First science results from sofia/forcast: The mid-infrared view of the compact H II region W3A

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The massive star-forming region W3 was observed with the faint object infrared camera for the SOFIA telescope as part of the Short Science program. The 6.4, 6.6, 7.7, 19.7, 24.2, 31.5, and 37.1 μm bandpasses were used to observe the emission of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules, very small grains, and big grains. Optical depth and color temperature maps of W3A show that IRS2 has blown a bubble devoid of gas and dust of 0.05pc radius. It is embedded in a dusty shell of ionized gas that contributes 40% of the total 24 μm emission of W3A. This dust component is mostly heated by far-ultraviolet, rather than trapped Lyα photons. This shell is itself surrounded by a thin (0.01pc) photodissociation region where PAHs show intense emission. The infrared spectral energy distribution (SED) of three different zones located at 8″, 20″, and 25″ from IRS2 shows that the peak of the SED shifts toward longer wavelengths, when moving away from the star. Adopting the stellar radiation field for these three positions, DUSTEM model fits to these SEDs yield a dust-to-gas mass ratio in the ionized gas similar to that in the diffuse interstellar medium (ISM). However, the ratio of the IR-to-UV opacity of the dust in the ionized shell is increased by a factor of ≃3 compared to the diffuse ISM. © 2012 The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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Astrophysical Journal Letters

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