Physics 321 Astrophysics I:  Lecture #8 Prof. Dale E. Gary NJIT

Interstellar Medium

A. Interstellar Medium (ISM)

Solar wind and IPM (Interplanetary Medium)
• carries particles and magnetic fields outward
• defines the Heliosphere  (region of space dominated by the Sun)
• each star has a similar region of domination around it

ISM

• region between the stars
• consists of particles and magnetic fields, from stars and "primordial"
• "particles" can be either gas or dust
There are three aspects of the Interstellar Medium in this photograph.  The blue nebula at upper right is a reflection nebula from dust, which scatters blue light from the stars.  The red nebulae seen in several places (e.g., Lagoon nebula below center) are emission nebulae from gas, shining in the red light of hydrogen-alpha.  In several places, especially middle left, the background stars appear to be less numerous due to interstellar absorption from dust, which obscures the more distant stars. Photo by Steve Mazlin and Jim Misti.
Gas vs. Dust:
• Gas (atomic nuclei, neutral atoms, molecules)
• obeys gas dynamics (e.g. ideal gas law), emission processes.
• Factor of 1012 larger number of gas particles than dust particles.
• Seen by emission or absorption (mostly of spectral lines).
• Dust (grains, aggregates of molecules)
• only small in number (avg. 1 particle in 106 m3),
• but BIG -- of order 1 micron in size.
• Make up about 1% of ISM by mass.
• Dominates opacity (interstellar absorption and other effects).
• Seen by reflection or absorption (continuum)

B. Interstellar Dust

Dark Nebulae and Extinction

Extinction (= Absorption + Scattering) means reduction of overall brightness of objects seen through dust.  Distance modulus equation is modified when we take dust into account:
m - M = 5 log d - 5 + A

where A is amount of absorption in magnitudes.  For A = 1, star is reduced in brightness (flux) by a factor of 2.5.  If A were uniform throughout galaxy, then A = kd (proportional to distance) but A is not uniform.

Source: Hubblesite.org

Interstellar Reddening
• Light is not scattered and absorbed uniformly--blue light is scattered more than red.
• Same effect for Earth's atmosphere
• Affects color index, e.g. B - V, due to color excess
• CE = CI (observed) - CI (intrinsic)
• In most regions of galaxy, the visual absorption AV ~ 3 CE, so can use CE measurements to determine amount of dust (to star)
• Can correct the distance estimated from Spectroscopic Parallax.
• Can show that Al= 1.086 tl.
Interstellar Polarization
Reflection Nebulae
• When you see dust from the side, it appears BLUE and polarized.
• This polarization does not necessarily depend on grains being elongated.

Here is another beautiful example of the three aspects of the Interstellar Medium.  Reflection nebulae from dust are seen in the vicinity of hot, luminous stars on both left and right.  The red nebulae at left, including the cone nebula, are emission nebulae from gas, shining in the red light of hydrogen-alpha.  The absorption by dust is obvious throughout the region. The gas and dust is obviously sculpted by light and energy from the luminous stars on the left, forming bow-shaped features. An open cluster of stars appears near the center of the photo. Photo by Adam Block and Tim Pucket.

Nature of Interstellar Grains

• Possible explanations for grains:
• Elongated, dirty-ice grains
• Grains of graphite
• Particles with small cores and icy mantles
• Large, complex molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): Model of the shape of a dust grain
• Silicate particles
• Sizes can be guessed from interstellar extinction curve (0.2 micron => graphite)
• Structure, make-up can be guessed from the infrared spectrum (both ices and silicates)
• Where do they come from?
• silicates and refractory material formed in atmospheres of cool stars (red supergiants)
• ices may come from dense molecular clouds -- next topic

C. Interstellar Gas
Again, 99% of ISM by mass is gas, and there are 1012 gas "particles" for every dust grain.

Interstellar Absorption Lines

• Unlike dust, gas is largely transparent--except in narrow spectral lines.
• See absorption lines in star-light that are not due to star -- Ca I, Ca II, Ti I, Ti II, Na I, and molecules CN and CH
• What should such lines look like?
• sharp and narrow (because cool and low thermal doppler broadening)
• can be shifted due to bulk doppler shifts--multiple clouds.
Emission Nebulae--H II Regions
• Emission Nebulae are RED and have both optical lines and radio continuum.
• Hydrogen lines are due to recombination of ionized hydrogen (H II).
• Ionization occurs due to UV photons ( > 91.2 nm, Lyman continuum) from hot (T = 20,000 K) O and B stars.
• Gas fluoresces by converting UV photons to visible (electrons cascade down to lower energy levels)
• If gas is uniform, an O or B star has a roughly spherical volume of H II (Stromgren Sphere).
• Radio continuum comes from the free electrons
Supernove Remnants and Planetary Nebulae
Supernovae

Source: Hubblesite.org

Planetary Nebulas
Image 1
Image 2

21-cm line
• Lowest energy state of hydrogen
• Electron in one of two spin states "up" or "down"
• Define "up" to be parallel with proton spin--then this is higher energy state--would rather be antiparallel
• Energy difference between "up" and "down" corresponds to radio photon of 21 cm wavelength
• Spontaneous flip occurs only once every few million years!
• Collisions in ISM occur once every 400 years, so most flips are due to collisions (no radiation)
• Rare photon emission, but there are enormous numbers of H atoms along each line of sight, so line is strong!
Recombination lines
• Electrons recombining with hydrogen in H II regions can attach in very high excitation levels, then transition to slightly lower ones, i.e. n = 105 to n = 104.  These low-energy transitions give off low-energy photons in the      radio region of the spectrum, giving another way to study H II regions.
Molecular Lines
• CO rotational line, with J = 0 to 1 transition at 115 GHz, and the 1 to 2 transition at 230 GHz.  These correspond to mm wavelengths--radio again.
• Molecules that have been detected: CO, CN, OH, H2CO, CH3OH, H2O, NH3, HCN, HC3N, HNCO, more
• Most molecules, however, are good old H2 (molecular hydrogen).
• Chance of these forming in ISM seem very small (one collision every 400 years) but
• dust helps
• provides place to collect and hold atoms while molecules form over millions (perhaps billions) of years