Green Bank Telescope observations of 3He+: H II regions.
BALSER D.S. and BANIA T.M.
Abstract (from CDS):
During the era of primordial nucleosynthesis, the light elements 2H, 3He, 4He, and 7Li were produced in significant amounts, and these abundances have since been modified primarily by stars. Observations of 3He+ in H II regions located throughout the Milky Way disk reveal very little variation in the 3He/H abundance ratio-the "3He Plateau"-indicating that the net effect of 3He production in stars is negligible. This is in contrast to much higher 3He/H abundance ratios found in some planetary nebulae. This discrepancy is known as the "3He Problem". Stellar evolution models that include thermohaline mixing can resolve the 3He Problem by drastically reducing the net 3He production in most stars. These models predict a small negative 3He/H abundance gradient across the Galactic disk. Here we use the Green Bank Telescope to observe 3He+ in five H II regions with high accuracy to confirm the predictions of stellar and Galactic chemical evolution models that include thermohaline mixing. We detect 3He+ in all the sources and derive the 3He+/H+ abundance ratio using model H II regions and the numerical radiative transfer code NEBULA. The over 35 radio recombination lines (RRLs) that are simultaneously observed, together with the 3He+ transition provide stringent constraints for these models. We apply an ionization correction using observations of 4He RRLs. We determine a 3He/H abundance gradient as a function of Galactocentric radius of -(0.116 ± 0.022) x 10–5 kpc–1, consistent with stellar evolution models including thermohaline mixing that predict a small net contribution of 3He from solar mass stars.