The Deuterium Abundance in the Local Interstellar Medium

Prodanovic, Tijana
Steigman, Gary
Fields, Brian D.
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As the Galaxy evolves, the abundance of deuterium in the interstellar medium (ISM) decreases from its primordial value: deuterium is "astrated". The deuterium astration factor, f_D, the ratio of the primordial D abundance (the D to H ratio by number) to the ISM D abundance, is determined by the competition between stellar destruction and infall, providing a constraint on models of the chemical evolution of the Galaxy. Although conventional wisdom suggests that the local ISM (i.e., within ~1-2 kpc of the Sun) should be well mixed and homogenized on timescales short compared to the chemical evolution timescale, the data reveal gas phase variations in the deuterium, iron, and other metal abundances as large as factors of ~4-5 or more, complicating the estimate of the "true" ISM D abundance and of the deuterium astration factor. Here, assuming that the variations in the observationally inferred ISM D abundances result entirely from the depletion of D onto dust, rather than from unmixed accretion of nearly primordial material, a model-independent, Bayesian approach is used to determine the undepleted abundance of deuterium in the ISM (or, a lower limit to it). We find the best estimate for the undepleted, ISM deuterium abundance to be D/H_ISM >= (2.0+-0.1)x10^(-5). This result is used to provide an estimate of (or, an upper bound to) the deuterium astration factor, f_D = (D/H)_P/D/H_ISM <= 1.4+-0.1.
Comment: 20 pages, 5 figures. Accepted to MNRAS.
Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies