The Validity of 21 cm Spin Temperature as a Kinetic Temperature Indicator in Atomic and Molecular Gas

Gargi Shaw, G. J. Ferland, Ivan - Hubeny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


The gas kinetic temperature (T K) of various interstellar environments is often inferred from observations that can deduce level populations of atoms, ions, or molecules using spectral line observations; H i 21 cm is perhaps the most widely used, and has a long history. Usually the H i 21 cm line is assumed to be in thermal equilibrium and the populations are given by the Boltzmann distribution. A variety of processes, many involving Lyα, can affect the 21 cm line. Here we show how this is treated in the spectral simulation code Cloudy, and present numerical simulations of environments where this temperature indicator is used, with a detailed treatment of the physical processes that determine level populations within H0. We discuss situations where this temperature indicator traces T K, cases where it fails, as well as the effects of Lyα pumping on the 21 cm spin temperature. We also show that the Lyα excitation temperature rarely traces the gas kinetic temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number149
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 10 2017



  • ISM: clouds
  • radiative transfer
  • radio lines: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this