far-infrared cooling lines in low-mass young stellar objects
(Abridged) Far-infrared Herschel-PACS spectra of 18 low-mass protostars of various luminosities and evolutionary stages are studied. We quantify their far-infrared line emission and the contribution of different atomic and molecular species to the gas cooling budget during protostellar evolution. We also determine the spatial extent of the emission and investigate the underlying excitation conditions. Most of the protostars in our sample show strong atomic and molecular far-infrared emission. Water is detected in 17 objects, including 5 Class I sources. The high-excitation H2O line at 63.3 micron is detected in 7 sources. CO transitions from J=14-13 up to 49-48 are found and show two distinct temperature components on Boltzmann diagrams with rotational temperatures of ~350 K and ~700 K. H2O has typical excitation temperatures of ~150 K. Emission from both Class 0 and I sources is usually spatially extended along the outflow direction but with a pattern depending on the species and the transition. The H2O line fluxes correlate strongly with those of the high-J CO lines, as well as with the bolometric luminosity and envelope mass. They correlate less strongly with OH and not with [OI] fluxes. The PACS data probe at least two physical components. The H2O and CO emission likely arises in non-dissociative (irradiated) shocks along the outflow walls with a range of pre-shock densities. Some OH is also associated with this component, likely resulting from H2O photodissociation. UV-heated gas contributes only a minor fraction to the CO emission observed by PACS, based on the strong correlation between the shock-dominated CO 24-23 line and the CO 14-13 line. [OI] and some of the OH emission probe dissociative shocks in the inner envelope. The total far-infrared cooling is dominated by H2O and CO, with [OI] increasing for Class I sources.