The Structure of the Local Interstellar Medium. V. Electron Densities

Seth Redfield, Ross E. Falcon
2008 Astrophysical Journal  
We present a comprehensive survey of C ii à absorption detections toward stars within 100 pc in order to measure the distribution of electron densities present in the local interstellar medium ( LISM ). Using high spectral resolution observations obtained by GHRS and STIS on board HST, we searched for all detections of LISM C ii à absorption. We identify 13 sight lines with 23 individual C ii à absorption components, which provide electron density measurements. We employ several strategies to
more » ... ral strategies to determine more accurate C ii column densities from the saturated C ii resonance line, including constraints of the line width from the optically thin C ii à line, constraints from independent temperature measurements of the LISM gas based on line widths of other ions, and third, using measured S ii column densities as a proxy for C ii column densities. The distribution of electron densities based on using S ii as a proxy for C ii is similar to the distribution based on carbon alone, while significantly tighter, and proves to be a promising technique to avoid grossly overestimating the C ii column density based on the saturated line profile. The sample of electron densities appears consistent with a lognormal distribution and an unweighted mean value of n e (C ii S ii ) ¼ 0:11 þ0:10 À0:05 cm À3 . Seven individual sight lines probe the Local Interstellar Cloud (LIC), and all present a similar value for the electron density, with a weighted mean of n e (LIC) ¼ 0:12 AE 0:04 cm À3 . Given some simple assumptions, the range of observed electron densities translates into a range of thermal pressures, P/k ¼ 3300 þ5500 À1900 K cm À3 . This work greatly expands the number of electron density measurements and provides important constraints on the ionization, abundance, and evolutionary models of the LISM.
doi:10.1086/589230 fatcat:okzygxgwxfhbpchnun3yndd2hu