New strong-line abundance diagnostics for H II regions: Effects of κ-distributed electron energies and new atomic data

Michael A. Dopita, Ralph S. Sutherland, David C. Nicholls, Lisa J. Kewley, Frédéric P.A. Vogt

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    Abstract

    Recently, Nicholls et al., inspired by in situ observations of solar system astrophysical plasmas, suggested that the electrons in H II regions are characterized by a κ-distribution of energies rather than a simple Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution. Here, we have collected together new atomic data within a modified photoionization code to explore the effects of both the new atomic data and the κ-distribution on the strong-line techniques used to determine chemical abundances in H II regions. By comparing the recombination temperatures (T rec) with the forbidden line temperatures (T FL), we conclude that κ ∼ 20. While representing only a mild deviation from equilibrium, this result is sufficient to strongly influence abundances determined using methods that depend on measurements of the electron temperature from forbidden lines. We present a number of new emission line ratio diagnostics that cleanly separate the two parameters determining the optical spectrum of H II regions - the ionization parameter q or and the chemical abundance, 12+log(O/H). An automated code to extract these parameters is presented. Using the homogeneous data set from van Zee et al., we find self-consistent results between all of these different diagnostics. The systematic errors between different line ratio diagnostics are much smaller than those found in the earlier strong-line work. Overall, the effect of the κ-distribution on the strong-line abundances derived solely on the basis of theoretical models is rather small.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number10
    JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
    Volume208
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013

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