The homogeneity of interstellar elemental abundances in the Galactic disk

Stefan I.B. Cartledge*, J. T. Lauroesch, David M. Meyer, Ulysses J. Sofia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


We present interstellar elemental abundance measurements derived from Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph echelle observations of 47 sight lines extending up to 6.5 kpc through the Galactic disk. These paths probe a variety of interstellar environments, covering ranges of nearly 4 orders of magnitude in molecular hydrogen fraction/(H2) and more than 2 in mean hydrogen sight-line density 〈nH〉. Coupling the current data with Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph data from 17 additional sight lines and the corresponding Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer and Copernicus observations of H2 absorption features, we explore magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, nickel, copper, and germanium gas-phase abundance variations as a function of 〈nH〉: density-dependent depletion is noted for each element, consistent with a smooth transition between two abundance plateaus identified with warm and cold neutral interstellar medium depletion levels. The observed scatter with respect to an analytic description of these transitions implies that total elemental abundances are homogeneous on length scales of hundreds of parsecs, to the limits of abundance measurement uncertainty. The probable upper limit we determine for intrinsic variability at any 〈nH〉 is 0.04 dex, aside from an apparent 0.10 dex deficit in copper (and oxygen) abundances within 800 pc of the Sun. Magnesium dust abundances are shown to scale with the amount of silicon in dust, and in combination with a similar relationship between iron and silicon, these data appear to favor the young F and G star values of Sofia & Meyer as an elemental abundance standard for the Galaxy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-346
Number of pages20
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Apr 10 2006


  • Galaxy: abundances
  • ISM: abundances
  • Ultraviolet: ISM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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