Robustness of N2H+ as tracer of the CO snowline
1 Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, PO box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
2 School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
3 Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0HA, UK
4 Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik, Giessenbachstrasse 1, 85748 Garching, Germany
Received: 1 August 2016
Accepted: 20 October 2016
Context. Snowlines in protoplanetary disks play an important role in planet formation and composition. Since the CO snowline is difficult to observe directly with CO emission, its location has been inferred in several disks from spatially resolved ALMA observations of DCO+ and N2H+.
Aims. N2H+ is considered to be a good tracer of the CO snowline based on astrochemical considerations predicting an anti-correlation between N2H+ and gas-phase CO. In this work, the robustness of N2H+ as a tracer of the CO snowline is investigated.
Methods. A simple chemical network was used in combination with the radiative transfer code LIME to model the N2H+ distribution and corresponding emission in the disk around TW Hya. The assumed CO and N2 abundances, corresponding binding energies, cosmic ray ionization rate, and degree of large-grain settling were varied to determine the effects on the N2H+ emission and its relation to the CO snowline.
Results. For the adopted physical structure of the TW Hya disk and molecular binding energies for pure ices, the balance between freeze-out and thermal desorption predicts a CO snowline at 19 AU, corresponding to a CO midplane freeze-out temperature of 20 K. The N2H+ column density, however, peaks 5–30 AU outside the snowline for all conditions tested. In addition to the expected N2H+ layer just below the CO snow surface, models with an N2/CO ratio ≳0.2 predict an N2H+ layer higher up in the disk due to a slightly lower photodissociation rate for N2 as compared to CO. The influence of this N2H+ surface layer on the position of the emission peak depends on the total CO and N2 abundances and the disk physical structure, but the emission peak generally does not trace the column density peak. A model with a total (gas plus ice) CO abundance of 3 × 10-6 with respect to H2 fits the position of the emission peak previously observed for the TW Hya disk.
Conclusions. The relationship between N2H+ and the CO snowline is more complicated than generally assumed: for the investigated parameters, the N2H+ column density peaks at least 5 AU outside the CO snowline. Moreover, the N2H+ emission can peak much further out, as far as ~50 AU beyond the snowline. Hence, chemical modeling, as performed here, is necessary to derive a CO snowline location from N2H+ observations.
Key words: astrochemistry / protoplanetary disks / stars: individual: TW Hya / ISM: molecules / submillimeter: planetary systems
© ESO, 2017