Small-Scale HI Channel Map Structure is Cold: Evidence from Na I Absorption at High Galactic Latitudes

20 Sep 2019  ·  Peek J. E. G., Clark S. E. ·

The spatial distribution of neutral hydrogen (H I) emission is a powerful probe of interstellar medium physics. The small-scale structure in H I channel maps is often assumed to probe the velocity field rather than real density structures... In this work we directly test this assumption, using high-resolution GALFA-H I observations and 50,985 quasar spectra from SDSS. We measure the equivalent widths of interstellar Na I D$_1$ and Na I D$_2$ absorption, and robustly conclude that they depend more strongly on the column density of small-scale structure in H I than on either the large-scale H I structure or the total H I column. This is inconsistent with the hypothesis that small-scale channel map structure is driven by velocity crowding. Instead, the data favor the interpretation that this emission structure predominantly originates in cold, dense interstellar material, consistent with a clumpy cold neutral medium. read more

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Astrophysics of Galaxies