Revisiting he-like X-ray emission-line plasma diagnostics

R. L. Porter, G. J. Ferland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


A complete model of helium-like line and continuum emission has been incorporated into the plasma simulation code Cloudy. All elements between He and Zn are treated, any number of levels can be considered, and radiative and collisional processes are included. This includes photoionization from all levels, line transfer, including continuum pumping and destruction by background opacities, scattering, and collisional processes. The model is calculated selfconsistently along with the ionization and thermal structure of the surrounding nebula. The result is a complete line and continuum spectrum of the plasma. Here we focus on the ions of the He I sequence and reconsider the standard helium-like X-ray diagnostics. We first consider semianalytical predictions and compare these with previous work in the low-density, optically thin limit. We then perform numerical calculations of helium-like X-ray emission (such as is observed in some regions of Seyfert galaxies) and predict line ratios as a function of ionizing flux, hydrogen density, and column density. In particular, we demonstrate that, in photoionized plasmas, the R ratio, a density indicator in a collisional plasma, depends on the ionization fraction and is strongly affected by optical depth for large column densities. We also introduce the notion that the R ratio is a measure of the incident continuum at UV wavelengths. The G ratio, which is temperature sensitive in a collisional plasma, is also discussed and shown to be strongly affected by continuum pumping and optical depth as well. These distinguish a photoionized plasma from the more commonly studied collisional case.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-595
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Jul 20 2007


  • Atomic processes
  • Methods: numerical
  • Plasmas
  • X-rays: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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