The collisionally pumped, ground-state 1720 MHz maser line of OH is widely recognized as a tracer for shocked regions and observed in star-forming regions and supernova remnants. Whereas some lines of excited states of OH have been detected and studied in star-forming regions, the subject of excited-state OH in supernova remnants-where high collision rates are to be expected-is only recently being addressed. Modeling of collisional excitation of OH demonstrates that 1720, 4765, and 6049 MHz masers can occur under similar conditions in regions of shocked gas. In particular, the 6049 and 4765 MHz masers become more significant at increased OH column densities where the 1720 MHz masers begin to be quenched. In supernova remnants, the detection of excited-state OH line maser emission could therefore serve as a probe of regions of higher column densities. Using the Very Large Array, we searched for excited-state OH in the 4.7, 7.8, 8.2, and 23.8 GHz lines in four well-studied supernova remnants with strong 1720 MHz maser emission (Sgr A East, W28, W44 and IC 443). No detections were made, at typical detection limits of around 10 mJy beam-1. The search for the 6 GHz lines were done using Effelsberg since the VLA receivers did not cover those frequencies, and are reported on in an accompanying letter (Fish and coworkers). We also cross-correlated the positions of known supernova remnants with the positions of 1612 MHz maser emission obtained from blind surveys. No probable associations were found, perhaps except in the Sgr A East region. The lack of detections of excited-state OH indicates that the OH column densities suffice for 1720 MHz inversion but not for inversion of excited-state transitions, consistent with the expected results for C-type shocks.

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Published in The Astrophysical Journal, v. 676, no. 1, p. 371-377.

© 2008. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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