The Distribution of Thermal Pressures in the Interstellar Medium from a Survey of CiFine‐Structure Excitation
Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series
We used the smallest entrance aperture (0.03 arc-sec wide slit) and highest resolution echelle gratings (E140H and E230H) of STIS on HST to record the interstellar absorption features for 10 different multiplets of neutral carbon at a wavelength resolving power of 200,000 in the UV spectra of 21 early-type stars. We measured the amount of C I in each of its three fine-structure levels, so that we could determine nT of the absorbing gas and how much it varies in different regions. To obtain
... ons. To obtain internally consistent results for all multiplets, we had to modify the transition f-values so that generally weak transitions were stronger than their published values. The fine-structure populations indicate that the median thermal pressure for our entire sample is p/k=2240 cm^-3 K, or slightly higher for temperatures that differ appreciably from 40 K. About 15% of the gas moving at peculiar velocities shows p/k > 10^4 cm^-3 K, and this fraction drops to 1.5% for quiescent gas. Often, there are small amounts of gas at p/k > 10^5 cm^-3 K. These ubiquitous wisps of high pressure material probably arise from small-scale density enhancements created by converging flows in a turbulent medium. The C I excitations indicate a barytropic index gamma_eff > 0.90 when the gas is compressed, which is larger than the value 0.72 expected for material in thermal equilibrium. This indicates that the regions have a dimension r < 0.01 pc which allows them to compress very quickly and nearly adiabatically. Appendices of this paper present evidence that STIS can indeed achieve R = 200,000, and that telluric oxygen absorption lines are broadened by macroscopic motions.