High spatial and spectral resolution observations are reported of H2 infrared emission from the reflection nebulæ NGC2023 and NGC7023. The local molecular gas is strongly perturbed by the presence of the massive stars which power these nebulae. Data yield information on the small-scale structure, the temperature and density and the dynamics of the excited gas. Excited material is found to be hot (400-500K), dense (105-106 cm−3) and clumped containing substantial flows and velocity fields.
The two reflection nebulæ NGC2023 and NGC7023 are prototypes of regions in which recently formed massive stars are interacting strongly with their parent gas. The outcome of these interactions is important in understanding the cycle of star formation in which massive stars are created and, by perturbing their surroundings, influence the nature of the gas in which future stars may form. The goal of our work is to examine in detail the perturbed gas around massive young stars. Some of the observations of infrared (IR) emission of molecular hydrogen in NGC2023 and NGC7023, performed in recent years in our group, are described below.
Nebulosity in NGC2023 and NGC7023 is excited by B-stars of temperatures respectively 22,000K and 20,400K. The distance between the star and the illuminated surrounding gas is ∼ 0.1 pc in both nebulæ. NGC2023 shows a strong IR excess with emission from small dust particles plus extended red emission, and has an associated molecular cloud with OH, HCHO, HCN, CO, CH, CH+ and other detections (see Field et al. 1994).