Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

A Calculating the ionization rate in the Interstellar medium?

  1. Jul 17, 2016 #1
    I hope putting this in the high energy section is the right section (if not, please let me know which would be more appropriate!) I felt this was appropriate since the work I am doing is high energy astrophysics.

    So I'm doing some research this summer, and my tasks were to take some data from satellite observations on cosmic rays, and find the Cosmic Ray intensity (sometimes referred to as flux, but is also known as the Cosmic ray spectrum) for several species. This includes protons, electrons, helium, and carbon.

    The units on the intensity are $ [particles.m^{-2}.s^{-1}.sr^{-1}.(GeV/nuc^{-1}]$.

    The next task is to find the ionization rate. Here is where I am confused.

    I have these equations for intensity. I do not know how to get an ionization rate out of this. I know, in principle, what I should do to start, and that is the following:

    1) compute the energy in the material per unit thickness
    2) divide by the average ionization potential

    But here is my question. For the Interstellar Medium (ISM), what material are we considering to compute the energy? And how would we compute this per thickness?

    Any time I have ever seen ionization potential, it was just looking it up on the periodic table. How do we actually go about computing the ionization potential?

    Finally, to get the ionization rate, do we divide the energy by the ionization potential?

    Thank you all!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2016 #2
    Thanks for the post! This is an automated courtesy bump. Sorry you aren't generating responses at the moment. Do you have any further information, come to any new conclusions or is it possible to reword the post?
  4. Jul 23, 2016 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    One more or less answered that question earlier in the OP.
    In addition to particles, one also has X-ray and gamma radiation. To get reaction rates, one would use the integrated product of the flux and the cross-section for the particular reaction.

    Here is an article on ISM ionization rates with citations.

    See also - http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~pogge/Ast871/Notes/Intro.pdf for some background
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted