Interstellar Medium

Interstellar Medium, Photodissociation regions and Far-Infrared Astrophysics


Dr. Javier R. Goicoechea (research line leader), Dr. Cornelia Pabst (NWO Rubicon postdoc, starting in January 2022), Dr. Sara Cuadrado and Miriam G. Santa-María

Research line briefing: this research line addresses the physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium (from diffuse to dense molecular clouds), with emphasis on the properties, structure, physical conditions, and chemical composition of molecular gas illuminated by stellar ultraviolet photons (< 13.6 eV), so-called “photodissociation regions” (PDRs). These environments radiate most of the far-infrared and submillimeter emission detected from distant star-forming galaxies. The main targets of our investigations are regions such as Orion in the disk of the galaxy, as well Sgr B2 and Sgr A* in the Galactic Center. In addition to developing specific models, we follow a very observational approach, leading observing programs with the major observatories at these wavelengths: ISO, Herschel, ALMA, IRAM, and SOFIA. We are also “core-team” members of an ERS-JWST program (James Webb Space Telescope) to observe PDRs.

Main Research Topics

Recent Publications

Main national and international collaborations

Research projects (last 5 years)

  • A Panchromatic Observational Study of Stellar Feedback in Star-Forming Regions” – (01/2022-01/2024). Reference: 2021/ENW/01128293. Funding Agency: Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO). Principal Investigator: Dr. Cornelia Pabst. Supervisor and host: Dr. Javier R. Goicoechea. Total Funding: 127.224 €.

  • Feedback y química en el Medio Interestelar” – (06/2020 – 05/2024). Reference: PID2019-106110GB-I00. Funding agency: Agencia Estatal de Investigación (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación). Principal investigator: Dr. Javier R. Goicoechea. Total funding: 121.000 €.

  • Efectos Dinámicos y Radiativos de las estrellas masivas en el medio interestelar: imágenes espectroscópicas con ALMA, SOFIA, IRAM y JWST” – (01/2018 – 12/2019). Reference: AYA2017-85111-P. Funding agency: Agencia Estatal de Investigación (Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades). Principal investigator: Dr. Javier R. Goicoechea. Total funding: 53.240 €.

Scholar supervision (last 5 years)

  • García Santa-María, Miriam. Ph. D. ongoing. “Properties of the molecular gas in high-mass star-forming regions: differences between disk and Galactic Center clouds“. Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Supervisor: Goicoechea, J. R.
  • Pabst, Cornelia H. M. Ph. D. title: “Orion’s Dragon and other stories: Feedback by massive stars“. Leiden Observatory, Faculty of Science, Leiden University (18/03/2021). Supervisor(s): Tielens, A. G. G. M.; Goicoechea, J. R.
  • García Santa-María, Miriam. Master in Astrophysics. Title: “Propiedades y origen del gas molecular caliente y extenso en la región de formación estelar de Orión (OMC-1)“. Universidad Complutense de Madrid (06/2018). Supervisor: Goicoechea, J. R.
  • Cuadrado Prado, Sara. Ph. D. title: “Molecular content in the Orion Bar photodissociation region“. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (09/2017). Supervisor(s): Goicoechea, J. R.; Cernicharo, J.

Time for the Cycle 1 of the JWST

Artist’s impression of James Webb Space Telescope in space. Credit: STScI-JWST

After the Peer Review Panels and final review by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) Director, the James Webb Space Telescope Proposal, led by Olivier Berne (IRAP-CNRS, France), “Radiative Feedback from Massive Stars as Traced by Multiband Imaging and Spectroscopic Mosaics” has been approved for the Cycle 1  Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science (DD ERS) Program with 27.8 hours of observation time.

Two members of the team are from our group: Javier R. Goicoechea and Emeric Bron.

A total of 106 proposals requesting 3683.4 hours of observations were submitted in response to the DD ERS Call and 13 Proposals for 460 Hours have been approved by the Director.
The proposal makes a strong case for the role and significance of interstellar photodissociation regions (PDR) observations with JWST, with a plethora of anticipated science-enabling products and templates for the community ahead of Cycle 2, while also anticipating a series of papers on the ERS data.

The JWST launch window is set for March to June 2019.

Congratulations on the success of the proposal and best wishes for your future participation in and contributions to the scientific program of JWST.

Link to the new: Selections Made for the JWST Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science Program

More information (in Spanish):

“Multi-molecular views of a stellar nursery”, an article in Nature about the Orion-B mapping program

Gratier et al. 2017.

The journal Nature recently published an article titled “Multi-molecular views of a stellar nursery” outlining the Orion-B mapping program that is being carried out with the IRAM30m telescope. Two members of our group, Emeric Bron and Javier R. Goicoechea, are involved in this research (led by Jérôme Pety, IRAM) whose goal is to simultaneously image emissions from many different molecules across a very wide area of the star-forming cloud Orion-B, in the iconic Orion constellation.

You can read the abstract here and the full article in this link.