Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Dr. Thomas H. Troland

Second Advisor

Dr. Gary J. Ferland


The focus of this dissertation is to study the star-forming regions of the interstellar medium (ISM), using two very diverse environments: the Polaris Flare, high-galactic latitude, cirrus cloud complex consisting of several starless molecular cores with no nearby hot stars; and the Orion Nebula, which is the closest massive star forming region. The two environments provide a wide range of physical conditions.

It is commonly assumed that the Herschel far-infrared (FIR) fluxes are a good measure of column density, hence, mass of interstellar clouds. We find that the FIR fluxes are insensitive to the column density if AV ≳ 2. The Polaris Flare has been previously observed with the Herschel Space Telescope. We use Cloudy to model the molecular cores in MCLD 123.5+24.9 of the Polaris Flare. The Polaris Flare, 150 pc distant, is well within the Galactic disc. There are no nearby hot stars. Therefore, the cloud is illuminated by an external far-ultraviolet (FUV) flux (6-13 eV) due to the galactic background interstellar radiation field (ISRF). The dust grains absorb the incident FUV flux and re-emit in the FIR continuum emission. We use detailed grain models that suggest that the grains in dense regions are coated with water and ammonia ices, increasing their sizes and opacities. In our models, dust temperatures decline rapidly into the cloud. Therefore, the cloud interiors contribute very little additional FIR flux, leading to an underestimate of inferred column density. Cloudy also predicts mm-wavelength molecular lines for comparison with published observations. Our models suggest that at low temperatures (≲ 20K), molecules freeze-out on grain surfaces, and desorption by cosmic rays becomes important. Our models of inter-core regions in MCLD 123.5+24.9 significantly under predict molecular line strengths unless the gas is clumped into high-density regions.

We use Cloudy to construct a detailed model of the Orion H ii region. This study is an improvement over the work of Baldwin et al. 1991 with the new atomic data and stellar atmosphere models, and a wealth of archival observational data obtained over last two decades. We use collisionally excited lines to determine the elemental abundance of the region.