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It has been widely suggested that PAH cations (PAH+) may be the carriers of the diffuse interstellar bands, so it is of interest to probe diffuse behavior in regions suspected of having high abundances of PAHs. Here we examine the strengths of several of the visible-wavelength diffuse interstellar bands in two nebular environments where infrared emission and ultraviolet indicators show that PAHs are abundant. One might expect the PAHs to be predominantly positively ionized in these regions, yet the diffuse bands are systematically weak. This led us to examine the ionization balance for see whether the weakness of the diffuse bands might rule out PAH cations as the carriers. We find that this conclusion is ambiguous, however, due to the very rapid rates for recombination of PAHs: under conditions that may reasonably represent our observed nebulae, the PAHs might be in predominantly neutral form. If so, this would explain the weakness of the diffuse bands, but leaves open some very perplexing questions about where the PAHs might be dominantly in cation form, hence where the diffuse bands do arise if they are due to PAH+.

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Astronomy & Astrophysics


Letter to the Editor. Copyright 1995 European Southern Observatory.

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