[C ii] Emission in a Self-regulated Interstellar Medium

Alon Gurman*, Chia Yu Hu, Amiel Sternberg, Ewine F. van Dishoeck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The [C ii] 157.74 μm fine-structure transition is one of the brightest and most well-studied emission lines in the far-infrared, produced in the interstellar medium (ISM) of galaxies. We study its properties in subparsec-resolution hydrodynamical simulations for an ISM patch with gas surface density of Σ g = 10 M pc−2, coupled with time-dependent chemistry, far-ultraviolet dust and gas shielding, star formation, photoionization and supernova feedback, and full line radiative transfer. We find a [C ii]-to-H2 conversion factor that scales weakly with metallicity X [ C II ] = 6.31 × 10 19 Z ′ 0.17 cm − 2 ( K km s − 1 ) − 1 , where Z ′ is the normalized metallicity relative to solar. The majority of [C ii] originates from atomic gas with hydrogen number density n ∼ 10 cm−3. The [C ii] line intensity positively correlates with the star formation rate (SFR), with a normalization factor that scales linearly with metallicity. We find that this is broadly consistent with z ∼ 0 observations. As such, [C ii] is a good SFR tracer even in metal-poor environments where molecular lines might be undetectable. Resolving the clumpy structure of the dense (n = 10−103 cm−3) ISM is important, as it dominates [C ii] 157.74 μm emission. We compare our full radiative transfer computation with the optically thin limit and find that the [C ii] line becomes marginally optically thick only at supersolar metallicity for our assumed gas surface density.

Original languageEnglish
Article number179
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2024


FundersFunder number
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Flatiron Institute
Simons Foundation
DIPSTE/1869-2 GE 625/17-1


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