(interstellar gas cloud that includes molecules)
A molecular cloud (or dense cloud) is
a gas cloud of sufficient size and density
and sufficiently low temperature that
molecules form, particularly molecular hydrogen
(aka HH or H2).
They can be assumed to be cool as compared to HI regions or HII regions
because too high a temperature would dissociate the molecules.
Stars are assumed to formed in molecular clouds, where
the low temperature leads to the highest cloud density.
Molecular clouds are typically detected and measured by observing the
luminosity of carbon monoxide, which is assumed
to be present. The amount and density of H2 is
estimated using the CO to H2 factor.
The cloud's temperature and density are of interest with respect
to star formation activity/potential and can be determined
from the relative strength of various molecular spectral lines.
The clouds' diameter is typically in the 5 to 200 parsec range.
The largest are termed giant molecular clouds, a term generally used for those
on the order of a thousand solar masses and above,
and which can be as much as ten million solar masses.
A magnetized molecular cloud is such a cloud with a magnetic field.
If incoming electromagnetic radiation ionizes some of the cloud matter
making it conductive, an external magnetic field can interact
with the cloud, affecting its behavior, perhaps helping
or hindering a collapse leading to star formation. A cloud's
magnetism can be inferred from the Zeeman effect,
presumably observed through Zeeman-Doppler imaging.
Some terms used for molecular clouds, or dense portions
of them, used in various contexts:
(hydrogen,star formation,cloud type,molecular hydrogen,gas)
Referenced by pages:
Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX)
carbon monoxide (CO)
dense core mass function (DCMF)
evaporating gas globule (EGG)
star formation feedback
giant molecular cloud (GMC)
The H2O Southern Galactic Plane Survey (HOPS)
HII region (HII)
HI region (HI)
hydrogen deuteride (HD)
infrared dark cloud (IRDC)
interstellar medium (ISM)
Messier 100 (M100)
Whirlpool Galaxy (M51a)
Messier 74 (M74)
main sequence fitting
molecular cloud turbulence
open cluster (OC)
Orion Molecular Cloud Complex
Orion Nebula (M42)
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH)
photodissociation region (PDR)
position-position-velocity space (PPV)
rare designator prefixes
Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex
star formation rate (SFR)
star-forming region (SFR)
star formation (SF)
stellar age determination
surface density (Σ)
Taurus-Auriga Complex (Tau-Aur Complex)
three dimensional model
Taurus Molecular Cloud 1 (TMC-1)
Toomre Q parameter (Q)
T-Tauri star (TTS)
CO to H2 factor (Xco)