Diffuse Radio Recombination Line Emission on the Galactic plane

  • Marta Alves

Student thesis: Phd


A full-sky free-free template is increasingly important for the high-sensitivity Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) experiments, such as Planck. On the Galactic plane, where free-free estimations from Halpha measurements become unreliable, Radio Recombination Lines (RRLs) can be used to determine the thermal brightness temperature unambiguously with no dust contamination. RRLs are a powerful tool for the diagnostic of the interstellar medium, tracing the ionised component, its electron temperature, velocity and radial distributions.This thesis describes the investigation of the ionised emission from HII regions and diffuse gas along the Galactic plane using RRLs, with the aim of providing a map of the free-free emission to complement the high latitude Halpha observations. Measuring the free-free emission on the Galactic plane is of great importance to understand and characterise other Galactic emission components: synchrotron, anomalous dust and thermal dust emission.The fully-sampled HI Parkes All-Sky Survey and associated deep Zone of Avoidance Survey are re-analysed to recover extended RRL emission. They include three RRLs (H166alpha, H167alpha and H168alpha) at frequencies near 1.4 GHz. A data cube covering l=20 degree to 44 degree and |b| < 4 degree is constructed of RRL spectra with velocity and spatial resolution of 20 km/s and 14.8 arcmin, respectively. Well-known HII regions are identified as well as the diffuse RRL emission on the Galactic plane.In order to convert the integrated RRL emission into a free-free brightness temperature a value of the electron temperature (Te) of the ionised gas is needed. Using the continuum and line data from the present survey, the variation of Te with Galactocentric radius was derived for the longitude range l=20 degree to 44 degree, with a mean Te on the Galactic plane of 6000 K. The derived Te variation was used to obtain the first direct measure of the free-free brightness in this region of the Galactic plane. Subtraction of this thermal emission from the total continuum at 1.4 GHz leaves the first direct measurement of the synchrotron emission. A narrow component of width 2 degree is identified in the synchrotron latitude distribution.Determining the free-free and synchrotron emission in this region of the Galactic plane identifies the anomalous microwave component, when combined with WMAP and IRIS data. The results are in agreement with models of small spinning dust grains.
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRichard Davis (Supervisor)


  • radiation mechanisms:general - methods:data analysis - ISM:lines and bands - HII regions - Galaxy:structure - radio lines:ISM

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