Chemistry of heavy elements in the Dark Ages

P. Vonlanthen, T. Rauscher, C. Winteler, D. Puy, M. Signore, V. Dubrovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
137 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Context. Primordial molecules were formed during the Dark Ages, i.e. the time between recombination and reionization in the early Universe. They were the constituents of the first proto-stellar clouds. Standard Big Bang nucleosynthesis predicts the abundances of hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, and their isotopes in the early Universe. Heavier nuclei such as carbon, nitrogen, or oxygen are only formed in trace amounts. In nonstandard Big Bang nucleosynthesis models, it is possible to synthesize greater quantities of these heavier elements. The latter are interesting because they can form molecules with a high electric dipole moment which can increase the cooling in collapsing protostellar structures.
Aims. The purpose of this article is to analyze the formation of primordial molecules based on heavy elements during the Dark Ages, with elemental abundances taken from different nucleosynthesis models.
Methods. We present calculations of the full nonlinear equation set governing the primordial chemistry. We considered the evolution of 45 chemical species and used an implicit multistep method of variable order of precision with an adaptive stepsize control.
Results. The cosmological recombination of heavy elements is presented for the first time. We find that the most abundant Dark Age molecules based on heavy elements are CH and OH. When considering initial conditions given by the standard Big Bang nucleosynthesis model, we obtain relative abundances [CH] = n(CH)/n(b) = 6.2 x 10(-21) and [OH] = n(OH)/n(b) = 1.2 x 10(-23) at z = 10, where n(b) is the total number density. But nonstandard nucleosynthesis can lead to higher heavy element abundances, while still satisfying the observed primordial light abundances. In that case, we show that the abundances of molecular species based on C, N, O, and F can be enhanced by two orders of magnitude, leading to a CH relative abundance higher than that of HD(+) or H(2)D(+).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-59
Number of pages13
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Volume503
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009

Keywords

  • PRIMORDIAL GAS
  • MOLECULAR-HYDROGEN
  • MICROWAVE BACKGROUND ANISOTROPIES
  • cosmology: theory
  • CLOUDS
  • PRECISION COSMOLOGY
  • 1ST STARS
  • THERMAL BALANCE
  • ATOMIC DATA
  • EARLY UNIVERSE
  • BIG-BANG NUCLEOSYNTHESIS
  • astrochemistry
  • early Universe

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