Ionization of Hydrogen in the Solar Atmosphere

  • Chae, Jongchul (Astronomy Program, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Seoul National University)
  • Received : 2021.02.03
  • Accepted : 2021.03.29
  • Published : 2021.06.15


The ionization degree of hydrogen is crucial in the physics of the plasma in the solar chromosphere. It specifically limits the range of plasma temperatures that can be determined from the Hα line. Given that the chromosphere greatly deviates from the local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE) condition, precise determinations of hydrogen ionization require the solving of the full set of non-LTE radiative transfer equations throughout the atmosphere, which is usually a formidable task. In many cases, it is still necessary to obtain a quick estimate of hydrogen ionization without having to solve for the non-LTE radiative transfer. Here, we present a simple method to meet this need. We adopt the assumption that the photoionizing radiation field changes little over time, even if physical conditions change locally. With this assumption, the photoionization rate can be obtained from a published atmosphere model and can be used to determine the degree of hydrogen ionization when the temperature and electron density are specified. The application of our method indicates that in the chromospheric environment, plasma features contain more than 10% neutral hydrogen at temperatures lower than 17,000 K but less than 1% neutral hydrogen at temperatures higher than 23,000 K, implying that the hydrogen temperature determined from the Hα line is physically plausible if it is lower than 20,000 K, but may not be real, if it is higher than 25,000 K. We conclude that our method can be readily exploited to obtain a quick estimate of hydrogen ionization in plasma features in the solar chromosphere.



We sincerely appreciate the referees' constructive comments, which greatly helped to improve this paper. This research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2020R1A2C2004616).


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