Measuring nebular temperatures: The effect of new collision strengths with equilibrium and κ-distributed electron energies

David C. Nicholls, Michael A. Dopita, Ralph S. Sutherland, Lisa J. Kewley, Ethan Palay

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    91 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    In this paper we develop tools for observers to use when analyzing nebular spectra for temperatures and metallicities, with two goals: to present a new, simple method to calculate equilibrium electron temperatures for collisionally excited line flux ratios, using the latest atomic data; and to adapt current methods to include the effects of possible non-equilibrium "κ" electron energy distributions. Adopting recent collision strength data for [O III], [S III], [O II], [S II], and [N II], we find that existing methods based on older atomic data seriously overestimate the electron temperatures, even when considering purely Maxwellian statistics. If κ distributions exist in H II regions and planetary nebulae as they do in solar system plasmas, it is important to investigate the observational consequences. This paper continues our previous work on the κ distribution. We present simple formulaic methods that allow observers to (1) measure equilibrium electron temperatures and atomic abundances using the latest atomic data, and (2) to apply simple corrections to existing equilibrium analysis techniques to allow for possible non-equilibrium effects. These tools should lead to better consistency in temperature and abundance measurements, and a clearer understanding of the physics of H II regions and planetary nebulae.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number21
    JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
    Volume207
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013

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