Accurate and reliable helium abundances can test modern theories of galactic and primordial nucleosynthesis. Unfortunately, there is some question whether current theory can account for collisional contributions to He I. We present new observations of two planetary nebulae (PNs) in the range λ850-λ9650, which we use to assess the importance of collisonal effects in the He I spectrum. The first object, NGC 7027, is expected to show relatively strong collisional enhancement, while the second, NGC 7026, should display only small effects. We derive new collision-to-recombination correction factors, based on new collision strengths from the 29-state quantal calculation of He I extending to n = 5. Our results show that the correction factors based on 'standard' theory are correct, but that the errors acquired in such an observational analysis are appreciable. We find no convincing observational evidence for the existence of an unknown agent depopulating the 23S state in Pns.

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Published in The Astrophysical Journal, v. 442, no. 2, p. 714-725.

© 1995. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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