Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Dr. Gary J. Ferland


We present a range of steady-state photoionization simulations, corresponding to different assumed shell geometries and compositions, of the unseen postulated rapidly expanding outer shell to the Crab Nebula. The properties of the shell are constrained by the mass that must lie within it, and by limits to the intensities of hydrogen recombination lines. In all cases the photoionization models predict very strong emission from high ionization lines that will not be emitted by the Crab’s filaments, alleviating problems with detecting these lines in the presence of light scattered from brighter parts of the Crab. The NIR [Ne VI] λ 7.652 mm line is a particularly good case; it should be dramatically brighter than the optical lines commonly used in searches. The C IV λ1549Å doublet is predicted to be the strongest absorption line from the shell, which is in agreement with HST observations. We show that the cooling timescale for the outer shell is much longer than the age of the Crab, due to the low density. This means that the temperature of the shell will actually “remember” its initial conditions. However, the recombination time is much shorter than the age of the Crab, so the predicted level of ionization should approximate the real ionization. In any case, it is clear that IR observations present the best opportunity to detect the outer shell and so guide future models that will constrain early events in the original explosion.

Infrared observations have discovered a variety of objects, including filaments in the Crab Nebula and cool-core clusters of galaxies, where the H2 1-0 S(1) line is stronger than the infrared H I lines. A variety of processes could be responsible for this emission. Although many complete shock or PDR calculations of H2 emission have been published, we know of no previous simple calculation that shows the emission spectrum and level populations of thermally excited low-density H2. We present a range of purely thermal collisional simulations, corresponding to constant gas kinetic temperature at different densities. We consider the cases where the collisions affecting H2 are predominantly with atomic or molecular hydrogen. The resulting level population (often called “excitation”) diagrams show that excitation temperatures are sometimes lower than the gas kinetic temperature when the density is too low for the level populations to go to LTE. The atomic case goes to LTE at much lower densities than the molecular case due to larger collision rates. At low densities for the v=1 and 2 vibrational manifolds level populations are quasi-thermal, which could be misinterpreted as showing the gas is in LTE at high density. At low densities for the molecular case the level population diagrams are discontinuous between v=0 and 1 vibrational manifolds and between v=2, J=0, 1 and other higher J levels within the same vibrational manifold. These jumps could be used as density diagnostics. We show how much the H2 mass would be underestimated using the H2 1-0 S(1) line strength if the density is below that required for LTE. We give diagnostic diagrams showing level populations over a range of density and temperature. The density where the level populations are given by a Boltzmann distribution relative to the total molecular abundance (required to get the correct H2 mass), is shown for various cases. We discuss the implications of these results for the interpretation of H2 observations of the Crab Nebula and filaments in cool-core clusters of galaxies.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)