Strong shocks propagating into a partially ionized medium are often associated with optical Balmer lines. This emission is due to impact excitation of neutral hydrogen by hot protons and electrons in the shocked gas. The structure of such Balmer-dominated shocks has been computed in a previous paper, where the distribution function of neutral particles was derived from the appropriate Boltzmann equation including coupling with ions and electrons through charge exchange and ionization. This calculation showed how the presence of neutrals can significantly modify the shock structure through the formation of a neutral-induced precursor ahead of the shock. Here we follow up on our previous work and investigate the properties of the resulting Balmer emission, with the aim of using the observed radiation as a diagnostic tool for shock parameters. Our main focus is on supernova remnant shocks, and we find that, for typical parameters, the H alpha emission typically has a three-component spectral profile, where (1) a narrow component originates from upstream cold hydrogen atoms, (2) a broad component comes from hydrogen atoms that have undergone charge exchange with shocked protons downstream of the shock, and (3) an intermediate component is due to hydrogen atoms that have undergone charge exchange with warm protons in the neutral-induced precursor. The relative importance of these three components depends on the shock velocity, on the original degree of ionization, and on the electron-ion temperature equilibration level. The intermediate component, which is the main signature of the presence of a neutral-induced precursor, becomes negligible for shock velocities less than or similar to 1500 km s(-1). The width of the intermediate line reflects the temperature in the precursor, while the width of the narrow one is left unaltered by the precursor. In addition, we show that the profiles of both the intermediate and broad components generally depart from a thermal distribution, as a consequence of the non-equilibrium distribution of neutral hydrogen. Finally, we show that a significant amount of Balmer emission can be produced in the precursor region if efficient electron heating takes place.

COLLISIONLESS SHOCKS IN A PARTIALLY IONIZED MEDIUM. II. BALMER EMISSION

Blasi P;
2012

Abstract

Strong shocks propagating into a partially ionized medium are often associated with optical Balmer lines. This emission is due to impact excitation of neutral hydrogen by hot protons and electrons in the shocked gas. The structure of such Balmer-dominated shocks has been computed in a previous paper, where the distribution function of neutral particles was derived from the appropriate Boltzmann equation including coupling with ions and electrons through charge exchange and ionization. This calculation showed how the presence of neutrals can significantly modify the shock structure through the formation of a neutral-induced precursor ahead of the shock. Here we follow up on our previous work and investigate the properties of the resulting Balmer emission, with the aim of using the observed radiation as a diagnostic tool for shock parameters. Our main focus is on supernova remnant shocks, and we find that, for typical parameters, the H alpha emission typically has a three-component spectral profile, where (1) a narrow component originates from upstream cold hydrogen atoms, (2) a broad component comes from hydrogen atoms that have undergone charge exchange with shocked protons downstream of the shock, and (3) an intermediate component is due to hydrogen atoms that have undergone charge exchange with warm protons in the neutral-induced precursor. The relative importance of these three components depends on the shock velocity, on the original degree of ionization, and on the electron-ion temperature equilibration level. The intermediate component, which is the main signature of the presence of a neutral-induced precursor, becomes negligible for shock velocities less than or similar to 1500 km s(-1). The width of the intermediate line reflects the temperature in the precursor, while the width of the narrow one is left unaltered by the precursor. In addition, we show that the profiles of both the intermediate and broad components generally depart from a thermal distribution, as a consequence of the non-equilibrium distribution of neutral hydrogen. Finally, we show that a significant amount of Balmer emission can be produced in the precursor region if efficient electron heating takes place.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12571/399
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