Propriétés et évolution des poussières du milieu interstellaire.

Abstract : My thesis is dedicated to the properties and evolution of the dust in the Galactic interstellar medium (ISM), particularly the small sizes end of the dust size distribution. Throughout these three years, new infrared (IR) observations provided by the Spitzer Space Telescope helped me to bring my own contribution to the knowledge of the dust lifecycle. In order to get a view as global as possible, I have studied three different interstellar environments : the diffuse Galactic medium, a molecular cloud and a star forming region.
I analyzed one line of sight that points towards the diffuse Galactic ISM, away from bright star forming regions. Combining spectroscopic and photometric data, I have built a mean Galactic near to mid IR spectrum of the dust, that I have afterwards used as a reference. The Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) bands are present on top of a continuum. In order to interpret the band intensity ratios in terms of PAHs size and ionization state, I have updated our dust model so that it takes into account the size dependent ionization state of the PAHs. The diffuse ISM spectrum is fit for a PAH mean size of about 60 carbon atoms and a cation fraction of about 40%. Molecular size and charged PAHs are thus present within the diffuse medium. A 3-5
μm continuum, first detected in reflection nebulae, is observed to be present in the diffuse ISM emission. This continuum accounts for 70% of the emission in the Spitzer/IRAC 3.6μm filter. Its origin is still unknown. I show that it is neither scattered light nor PAH fluorescence, as this process would require a photon conversion efficiency above 100%.
I used Spitzer observations to quantify spatial variations of PAHs properties across the galaxy and on small scales within the Taurus molecular cloud. Analysis of a set of Galactic diffuse ISM sight lines show that the PAHs mean size exhibits significant dispersion, from 40 to 80 carbon atoms, while their ionization fraction stays constant within error bars. I have also analyzed mid and far-IR Spitzer images of the Taurus Molecular Cloud. Each dust component (PAHs, VSGs for Very Small Grains and BGs for Big Grains) can be related to one Spitzer channel (IRAC 8, MIPS 24 and MIPS 160 microns). A first difficulty was to obtain images of the low brightness diffuse emission across the entire cloud. I worked with Spitzer Science Center (SSC) experts to produce the IRAC 8 and MIPS 24 images. For the MIPS 160 I used an inversion algorithm developed to destripe the data. I validated the photometry of each image. The observations show that PAHs are present within a surface layer thinner than that penetrated by ultraviolet photons and that of VSGs emission. Such variations cannot be only explained by the extinction and must thus trace real PAH depletion within dense gas where the smallest dust particles may stick on large grains and/or coagulate.
During my PhD thesis, I applied for a SSC Visiting Graduate Student grant in order to study the Eagle Nebula (M16), the object that made me decide to do astrophysics, more than ten years ago, when the Hubble Space Telescope imaged the iconic Pillars of Creation. My application was accepted and I spent 6 months within the MIPSGAL Science Team. My aim was to combine IRAC and MIPS data of M16 in order to analyze the properties of the dust within the dusty and gaseous structures, while being involved in the data processing enhancement. The MIPS 24 microns image defines a shell-like structure within the nebula while the pillars are observed at other wavelengths. M16 is a massive star forming region where the dust emission is expected to be powered by the massive stars radiation. However, we show that the UV field is one order of magnitude too small to account for the shell dust temperature. For comparison we analyzed several other Galactic shells. The M16 nebula stands out for having unusually high far-IR color temperature.We considered an alternative interpretation where the dust is heated by gas grain collisions. This interpretation would imply that the shell is a supernova remnant (SNR) about 3000 years old. If confirmed, the Eagle SNR would be the first one detected through dust emission and within a stellar cradle. Moreover, it would illustrate the importance of dust infrared emission within energetics of SNRs. At last, but not at least, the question of the formation and/or destruction of the iconic Pillars of Creation would be (re)opened.
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Nicolas Flagey. Propriétés et évolution des poussières du milieu interstellaire.. Astrophysique [astro-ph]. Université Paris Sud - Paris XI, 2007. Français. ⟨tel-00196456⟩

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