The abundance of interstellar nitrogen

David M. Meyer*, Jason A. Cardelli, Ulysses J. Sofia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


Using the Hubble Space Telescope Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph (GHRS), we have obtained high S/N echelle observations of the weak interstellar N I λλ1160, 1161 absorption doublet toward the stars γ Cas, X Ori, τ Ori, κ Ori, δ Sco, and κ Sco. In combination with a previous GHRS measurement of N I toward ζ Oph, these new observations yield a mean interstellar gas-phase nitrogen abundance (per 106 H atoms) of 106 N/H = 75 ± 4 (± 1 σ). There are no statistically significant variations in the measured N abundances from sight line to sight line and no evidence of density-dependent nitrogen depletion from the gas phase. Since N is not expected to be depleted much into dust grains in these diffuse sight lines, its gas-phase abundance should reflect the total interstellar abundance. Consequently, the GHRS observations imply that the abundance of interstellar nitrogen (gas plus grains) in the local Milky Way is about 80% of the solar system value of 106 N/H = 93 ± 16. Although this interstellar abundance deficit is somewhat less than that recently found for oxygen and krypton with GHRS, the solar N abundance and the N I oscillator strengths are too uncertain to rule out definitively either a solar ISM N abundance or a 2/3 solar ISM N abundance similar to that of O and Kr.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L103-L106
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART II
StatePublished - 1997


  • ISM: abundances
  • ISM: atoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The abundance of interstellar nitrogen'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this