Title page for ETD etd-08122011-114753

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Nelson, Keith Phillip
Author's Email Address kenelso2@vt.edu
URN etd-08122011-114753
Title An Arcminute-Resolution Imaging Study of the H-alpha & [S II] Emission of the ISM from the Local Perseus Arm Using the Virginia Tech Spectral-Line Survey
Degree PhD
Department Physics
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Simonetti, John H. Committee Chair
Arav, Nahum Committee Member
Dennison, Brian K. Committee Member
Mizutani, Tetsuro Committee Member
  • ISM
  • H-alpha
  • [S II]
  • WIM
  • WHAM
  • Automated Telescopes
Date of Defense 2011-08-08
Availability unrestricted
The Virginia Tech Spectral-Line Survey (VTSS) is a series of 10-degree wide, arcminute-resolution images of the warm ionized interstellar medium (WIM) within the Milky Way for declinations greater than -15 degrees. The Wisconsin Hydrogen-Alpha Mapper (WHAM) studies the kinematics and distribution of this same material on an angular scale of one degree. Comparing the spatially-resolved images of the VTSS with WHAM's high spectral resolution images shows that the ISM's characteristics appear to be very similar at both degree and arcminute scales --- we see similar structures, and notice the same [S II]/H-alpha trend between those structures at both degree and arcminute scales. VTSS fields show three basic types of structures --- compact clouds with diameters greater than several degrees, those that are 1-degree or less in diameter, and extended filaments that differ from the clouds by spanning several degrees in length but having thicknesses of only a few tens of arcminutes. The latter two morphological types cannot be observed by WHAM. Additionally, VTSS data confirms that the [S II] intensity values are directly proportional to H-alpha intensities, a result that is also observed at degree resolutions. Finally, VTSS data show that [S II]/H-alpha ratios are, on average, nearly six times higher in the filaments. This would indicate that collisional excitation of singly-ionized sulfur ions is the dominant emission source within filaments. In clouds, the lower [S II]/H-alpha values observed are evidence that the H-alpha recombination line of photo-excited neutral hydrogen dominates. Because automating the VTSS was a key part of obtaining many of the images used in this project, I begin with a discussion of general observatory automation. I then address the specific processes and techniques used in automating the VTSS before discussing data collection and reduction techniques.
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