NOTERDAEME P., PETITJEAN P., LEDOUX C., LOPEZ S., SRIANAND R. and VERGANI S.D.
Abstract (from CDS):
We present the analysis of a sub-damped Lyman-α system with neutral hydrogen column density, logN(H0)(cm–2)=20.0±0.15 at zabs=2.69 toward SDSSJ123714.60+064759.5 (zem=2.78). Using the VLT/UVES and X-shooter spectrographs, we detect H2, HD, and CO molecules in absorption with logN(H2, HD, CO)(cm–2)=19.21+0.13–0.12, 14.48±0.05 and 14.17±0.09 respectively. The overall metallicity of the system is super-solar ([Zn/H]=+0.34 relative to solar) and iron is highly depleted ([Fe/Zn]=-1.39), revealing metal-rich and dusty gas. Three H2 velocity components spanning ∼125km/s are detected. The strongest H2 component, at zabs=2.68955, with logN(H2)=19.20, does not coincide with the centre of the Hi absorption. This implies that the molecular fraction in this component, fH2=2N(H2)/(2N(H2)+N(H0)), is higher than the mean molecular fraction < fH2≥1/4 in the system. We also found the Cl0 associated with this H2 component to have N(Cl0)/N(Cl+) > 0.4, which points in the same direction. Cl0 is tied to H2 by charge exchange reactions, this means that the molecular fraction in this component is not far from unity. The kinetic temperature derived from the J=0 and 1 rotational levels of H2 is T=108+84–33K and the particle density derived from the C0 ground-state fine structure level populations is nH0∼50-60cm–3. We derive an electronic density <2cm–3 for a UV field similar to the Galactic one and show that the carbon-to-sulphur ratio in the cloud is close to the solar ratio. The size of the molecular cloud is probably smaller than 1 pc. Both the CO/H2=10–5 and CO/C0∼1 ratios for fH2>0.24 indicate that the cloud classifies as translucent, i.e., a regime where carbon is found both in atomic and molecular form. The corresponding extinction, AV=0.14, albeit lower than the definition of a translucent sightline (based on extinction properties), is high for the observed H0 column density. This means that intervening clouds with similar local properties but with higher column densities (i.e. larger physical extent) could be missed by current magnitude-limited QSO surveys. The excitation of CO is dominated by radiative interaction with the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) and we derive Tex(CO)=10.5+0.8–0.6K when TCMBR(z=2.69)=10.05K is expected. We measure N(HD)/2N(H2)=10–5. This is about 10 times higher than what is measured in the Galactic ISM for fH2=1/4 but similar to what is measured in the Galactic ISM for higher molecular fractions. The astration factor of deuterium with respect to the primordial D/H ratio is only about 3. This can be the consequence of accretion of unprocessed gas from the intergalactic medium onto the associated galaxy. In the future, it will be possible to search efficiently for molecular-rich DLAs/sub-DLAs with X-shooter, but detailed studies of the physical state of the gas will still need UVES observations.