Observational consequences of fine-structure line optical depths on infrared spectral diagnostics

Nicholas Abel, Adam Bryant, Prabodh Dhakal, Ashley Gale, Alva Gibson, William Goddard, Chad Howard, Ameya Kolarkar, Pey Lian Lim, Gargi Shaw, Gary Ferland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


It has long been known that infrared fine-structure lines of abundant ions, such as the [O III] 88 μm line, can become optically thick in H II regions under certain high-luminosity conditions. This could mitigate their potential as diagnostic tools, especially if the source is too dusty for optical spectroscopy to otherwise determine the system's parameters. We examined a series of photoionization calculations that were designed to push the nebulae into the limit where many IR lines should be quite optically thick. We find that radiative transfer effects do not significantly change the observed emission-line spectrum. This is due to a combination of grain absorption of the hydrogen ionizing continuum and the fact that the correction for stimulated emission in these lines is large. Given these results and the likelihood that real objects have nonthermal line broadening, it seems unlikely that line optical depth presents a problem in using these lines as diagnostics of the physical conditions or chemical composition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-192
Number of pages5
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number804
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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