SKA studies of atomic gas in the interstellar medium of the Milky Way
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Dickey, JM and McClure-Griffiths, NM and Lockman, FJ, SKA studies of atomic gas in the interstellar medium of the Milky Way, New Astronomy Reviews, 48, (11-12) pp. 1311-1317. ISSN 1387-6473 (2004) [Refereed Article]
The λ21-cm line is an excellent tracer of the neutral interstellar medium (ISM). Atomic hydrogen (H I) is found in a variety of environments, from dense clouds to the diffuse galactic halo, and its filling factor is often high, so structures with sizes over a wide range of scales can be mapped with this line. Galactic H I surveys show small scale structure that is consistent with a spectrum of interstellar turbulence similar to what is measured in the ionized component of the ISM. But our sampling of the spectrum of this turbulence is limited to a few size ranges, based on the sensitivities of existing telescopes for emission and absorption studies. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will provide the sensitivity and resolution to give continuous coverage of the turbulence spectrum from hundreds of parsecs to a few tens of Astronomical Units. By showing us the full spectrum of interstellar turbulence in the neutral medium, the physical processes driving hydrodynamic and magneto-hydrodynamic instabilities will be illuminated. Ultimately the turbulence governs the passage of the gas from the warm phases of the medium to the cold phases where gravitational collapse can initiate star formation. The SKA is needed to fill in this missing link in the cycle of star formation and chemical enrichment that drives the evolution of galaxies. In the Milky Way halo, SKA mapping of H I high velocity clouds will trace the structure and motion of both the warm phase gas and the hot medium. The interaction between these two phases of halo gas is a great unsolved problem in Galactic astrophysics. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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