Kenneth Wood, Alex S. Hill, M. Ryan Joung, Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, Robert A. Benjamin, L. Matthew Haffner, R. J. Reynolds, G. J. Madsen

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56 Citations (Scopus)


We investigate models for the photoionization of the widespread diffuse ionized gas (DIG) in galaxies. In particular, we address the long standing question of the penetration of Lyman continuum photons from sources close to the galactic midplane to large heights in the galactic halo. We find that recent hydrodynamical simulations of a supernova-driven interstellar medium (ISM) have low-density paths and voids that allow for ionizing photons from midplane OB stars to reach and ionize gas many kiloparsecs above the midplane. We find that ionizing fluxes throughout our simulation grids are larger than predicted by one-dimensional slab models, thus allowing for photoionization by O stars of low altitude neutral clouds in the Galaxy that are also detected in H alpha. In previous studies of such clouds, the photoionization scenario had been rejected and the H alpha had been attributed to enhanced cosmic ray ionization or scattered light from midplane H II regions. We do find that the emission measure distributions in our simulations are wider than those derived from H alpha observations in the Milky Way. In addition, the horizontally averaged height dependence of the gas density in the hydrodynamical models is lower than inferred in the Galaxy. These discrepancies are likely due to the absence of magnetic fields in the hydrodynamic simulations and we discuss how magnetohydrodynamic effects may reconcile models and observations. Nevertheless, we anticipate that the inclusion of magnetic fields in the dynamical simulations will not alter our primary finding that midplane OB stars are capable of producing high-altitude DIG in a realistic three-dimensional ISM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1397-1403
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010


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