Interstellar abundance standards revisited

Ulysses J. Sofia*, David M. Meyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


We evaluate the stellar abundances often used to represent the total (gas plus dust) composition of the interstellar medium. Published abundances for B stars, young later type (F and G) stars, and the Sun are compared to the modeled dust-phase and measured gas-phase compositions of the interstellar medium. This study uses abundances for the five most populous elements in dust grains - C, O, Mg, Si, and Fe - and the cosmically abundant element, N. We find that B stars have metal abundances that are too low to be considered valid representations of the interstellar medium. The commonly invoked interstellar standard that is two-thirds of the solar composition is also rejected by recent observations. Young (≤2 Gyr) F and G disk stars and the Sun, however, cannot be ruled out as reliable proxies for the total interstellar composition. If their abundances are valid representations of the interstellar medium, then the apparent underabundance of carbon with respect to that required by dust models, i.e., the carbon crisis, is substantially eased.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L221-L224
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 2
StatePublished - Jun 20 2001


  • Dust, extinction
  • ISM: abundances
  • Ultraviolet: ISM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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