Imprints of molecular clouds in radio continuum images

F. Yusef-Zadeh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We show radio continuum images of several molecular complexes in the inner Galaxy and report the presence of dark features that coincide with dense molecular clouds. Unlike infrared dark clouds, these features which we call "radio dark clouds" are produced by a deficiency in radio continuum emission from molecular clouds that are embedded in a bath of UV radiation field or synchrotron emitting cosmic-ray particles. The contribution of the continuum emission along different path lengths results in dark features that trace embedded molecular clouds. The new technique of identifying cold clouds can place constraints on the depth and the magnetic field of molecular clouds when compared to those of the surrounding hot plasma radiating at radio wavelengths. The study of five molecular complexes in the inner Galaxy, Sgr A, Sgr B2, radio Arc, the Snake filament, and G359.75-0.13 demonstrates an anti-correlation between the distributions of radio continuum and molecular line and dust emission. Radio dark clouds are identified in Green Bank Telescope maps and Very Large Array images taken with uniform sampling of uv coverage. The level at which the continuum flux is suppressed in these sources suggests that the depth of the molecular cloud is similar to the size of the continuum emission within a factor of two. These examples suggest that high-resolution, high-dynamic-range continuum images can be powerful probes of interacting molecular clouds with massive stars and supernova remnants in regions where the kinematic distance estimates are ambiguous as well as in the nuclei of active galaxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL11
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012


  • Galaxy: center
  • ISM: clouds
  • Radio continuum: ISM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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