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The Three-Dimensional Structure Of The Infrared Cirrus

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NASA Technical Reports


This project was carried out over a period of four years, beginning 6/15/89 and continuing through 9/15/93. Intermediate results have been reported as poster papers at several meetings of the American Astronomical Society. A brief summary was presented in April 1993 at a symposium on the infrared cirrus. The final results were published in late 1993. The measurements have been deposited in NASA's Astronomical Data Center. Briefly, the results are as follows: Using the IRAS data base, we surveyed the 1808 06-B9.5 stars in the Bright Star Catalog for extended excess emission at 60 micrometers, indicating the presence of heated dust (cirrus hotspots) at the location of the star. Measurements of the angular size and infrared flux at 12, 25, 60 and 100 micrometers were obtained for 302 objects. From these basic data we calculated the radius, absorption, optical depth, color temperature, and dust density for each object. Arguing that the stars are randomly distributed point probes of the ISM, we showed that the filling factor of the dust-bearing component of the ISM is 14.6 + 2.4 percent within 400 pc of the sun for clouds with an equivalent hydrogen density greater than 0.5 cm(exp -3). Above a density of 1.0 cm(exp -3) the density distribution function appears to follow a power law of index -1.25. Further, we showed that the dust is distributed more sparsely in a region near the sun about 60 pc wide and extending several hundred parsecs in the direction of longitudes 80-260 deg. The distances to the dust clouds were determined from the spectroscopic parallaxes of the embedded stars; when the HIPPARCOS parallaxes become available, we will be able to produce a more accurate three-dimensional view of the local ISM.


cosmic dust, infrared astronomy, infrared cirrus (astronomy), infrared radiation, infrared sources (astronomy), interstellar matter, astronomical catalogs, density distribution, infrared astronomy satellite, stellar parallax


This work is freely available courtesy of NASA.