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Optical absorption line techniques have been applied to the study of a number of translucent molecular clouds in which the total column densities are large enough that substantial molecular abundances can be maintained. Results are presented for a survey of absorption lines of interstellar C2, CH, and CN. Detections of CN through the A2II -X2E+ (1,0) and (2,0) bands of the red system are reported, and are compared with observations of the blue system for one line of sight. The population distributions in C2 provide diagnostic information on temperature and density. The measured column densities of the three species can be used to test details of the theory of molecule formation in clouds where photo -processes still play a significant role. The C2 and CH column densities are strongly correlated with each other and probably also with the H2 column density. In contrast, the CN column densities are found to vary greatly from cloud to cloud. The observations are discussed with reference to detailed theoretical models.
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