AAS 196th Meeting, June 2000
Session 40. High Resolution Spectroscopy at Visible and Ultraviolet Wavelengths
Topical Contributed Display, Wednesday, June 7, 2000, 10:00am-7:00pm, Empire Hall South

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[40.02] Ionization Balance, Chemical Abundance, and the Metagalactic Radiation Field at High Redshift

D. W. Savin (Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory)

We have carried out a series of model calculations of the photoionized intergalactic medium (IGM) to determine the effects on the predicted ionic column densities due to uncertainties in the published dielectronic recombination (DR) rate coefficients. We demonstrate that these atomic physics uncertainties result in factors of ~1.6-1.9 uncertainty in the predicted C IV, N V, O VI, and Si IV column densities. These uncertainties translate into a systematic uncertainty of up to a factor of ~3.1 in the Si/C abundance ratio inferred from observations. The inferred IGM abundance ratio could thus be less than (Si/C)\odot or greater than 3(Si/C)\odot. If the latter is true, then it suggests the metagalactic radiation field is not due purely to quasars, but includes a significant stellar component. Lastly, column density ratios of Si IV to C IV versus C II to C IV are often used to constrain the decrement in the metagalactic radiation field at the He II absorption edge. We show that the variation in the predicted Si IV to C IV ratio due to a factor of 2 uncertainty in the DR rates is almost as large as that due to a factor of 10 change in the decrement. Laboratory measurements of the relevant DR resonance strengths and energies are the only unambiguous method to remove the effects of these atomic physics uncertainties from models of the IGM.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: savin@astro.columbia.edu

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