Observations of the Local Interstellar Medium with the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer

J. Vallerga (1)

1) Center for EUV Astrophysics, 2150 Kittredge Street, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720

To appear in The Heliosphere in the Local Interstellar Medium, ed. R. von Steiger, R. Lallement, and M. Lee, Space Science Reviews, 1996


Because of the strong absorption of extreme ultraviolet radiation by hydrogen and helium, almost every observation with the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) satellite is affected by the diffuse clouds of neutral gas in the local interstellar medium (LISM). This paper reviews some of the highlights of the EUVE results on the distribution and physical state of the LISM and the implications of these results with respect to the interface of the LISM and the heliosphere. The distribution of sources found with the EUVE all-sky surveys shows an enhancement in absorption toward the galactic center. Individual spectra toward nearby continuum sources provide evidence of a greater ionization of helium than hydrogen in the Local Cloud with an mean ratio of H I/He I of 14.7. The spectral distribution of the EUV stellar radiation field has been measured, which provides a lower limit to local H II and He II densities, but this radiation field alone cannot explain the local helium ionization. A combination of EUVE measurements of H I, He I, and He II columns plus the measurement of the local He I density with interplanetary probes can place constraints on the local values of the H I density outside the heliosphere to lie between 0.15 and 0.34 cm^(-3) while the H II density ranges between 0.0 and 0.14 cm^(-3). The thermal pressure (P/k = nT) of the Local Cloud is derived to be between 1700 and 2300 cm^(-3) K, a factor of 2 to 3 above previous estimates.

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