Determination of 12C/13C in the interstellar medium toward ζ ophiuchi and ξ persei

Isabel Hawkins*, Nahide Craig, David M. Meyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Over the past 7 years 12CH+/13CH+ observations performed by different groups of authors at various observatories toward the ζ Oph cloud have yielded interstellar 12C/13C isotope ratios varying at the factor of 2 level. In an effort to determine the cause of this discrepancy, we have (1) reanalyzed the Lick Observatory Reticon data presented in Hawkins, Jura, & Meyer, (2) obtained a new set of Lick Observatory observations toward ζ Oph using a CCD detector, and (3) carried out high-resolution, high signal-to-noise ratio observations toward ζ Oph and ξ Per using the KPNO coudé feed echelle spectrograph and a CCD detector. The reanalysis of the Lick Observatory Reticon data, performed with different software and using a different way of placing the continuum, has yielded 12CH+/13CH+ ratios that are completely consistent with the original analysis presented in the Hawkins, Jura, & Meyer paper. The Lick Observatory CCD data toward ζ Oph suffer from a large amount of telluric contamination, and the 12C/13C results are quite uncertain, ranging from 40 to 60, owing to the error in continuum placement. The KPNO CCD data are of highest quality in terms of resolution, signal-to-noise ratio, and absence of telluric lines. These KPNO data cover the CH+ 4232 and 3957 Å regions for ζ Oph and ξ Per. In the case of ζ Oph, the KPNO data also yielded a measurement of the 12CN/13CN ratio at 3874 Å. The KPNO results toward ζ Oph are 12CH+/13CH+ (0, 0) = 63 ± 8, 12CH+/13CH+(1, 0) = 67 ± 19, and 12CN/13CN = 100+88-33. Toward ξ Per, our KPNO measurements yield 12CH+/13CH+ = 49 ± 15 from the 4232 Å band, and a lower limit of 45 from the 3957 Å observations. Our KPNO CCD 12CH+/13CH+ and 12CN/13CN ζ Oph results presented here are consistent with recent determinations by Crane, Hegyi, & Lambert, Stahl & Wilson, and Kaiser & Wright. By contrast, the work by Hawkins, Jura, & Meyer and Crane & Hegyi deviates beyond the 1 σ errors from the above results. Toward ξ Per our KPNO CCD 12CH+/13CH+ results agree with the Hawkins & Jura measurements. The CH+ molecule provides the best probe of the interstellar 12C/13C ratio in the gas because it is not believed to suffer from isotope-selective effects such as chemical fractionation. A comparison of the solar system 12C/13C ratio of 89 to the 12CH+/13CH+ KPNO values of 63 and 49 which we measure in the interstellar medium toward ζ Oph and ξ Per, respectively, implies that the Galaxy has undergone a significant amount of chemical evolution since the formation of the solar system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-197
Number of pages13
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 10 1993


  • ISM: abundances
  • ISM: individual objects (ζ Ophiuchi cloud, ξ Persei cloud)
  • Nuclear reactions, nucleosynthesis, abundances

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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