Astrophysics (Index)About

line broadening

(broadening, spectral line broadening)
(processes causing a spectral line to have width)

The term line broadening (often just broadening) refers to the mechanisms that create the shape of an absorption line (e.g., from a star), that has breadth from mechanisms that affect a range of wavelengths. The mechanisms include Doppler broadening due to the Doppler effects of the movement of absorbing atoms, natural broadening from the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which assures no atom has a fixed velocity, and collisional broadening (pressure broadening) from distortion due to absorption by an atom whose absorption voltages are as-yet unsettled from the effects of a recent collision. The spectral line's width is quantified by an equivalent width, meaning the width of a theoretical maximum-depth rectangular-shaped line with the same area as the given spectral line. An alternate measure is full width at half maximum, a measure of the width "half way down" the line. Line depth is the depth of the line as a percentage of the continuum of the spectrum on either side of the line.

A curve of growth is a plot of a model relating a line's equivalent width to the number of absorbing atoms in the column through which the light passes to create an absorption line.

Rotational broadening is broadening due to the rotation of a body, i.e., the part rotating away from the observer is redshifted and the part rotating toward is blue shifted, both according to the radial velocity of that part of the body. Analysis reveals information about the rotation of planets, stars, galaxies and clouds.

Microturbulence is broadening due to turbulence on a very small scale, e.g., if a star's photosphere is stirred by an immediately-underlying convection zone or if the photosphere includes its own small regions of convection.

Further reading:

Referenced by pages:
Be star
broad-line region (BLR)
collisional broadening
damping profile
Doppler broadening
fine structure
ground state
spectral line shape
line shape function
Lorentzian distribution
natural broadening
Schuster-Schwarzschild model
spectral line
spectral line designation
Stark effect
state of excitation
stellar model atmosphere
stellar rotation
Tully-Fisher relation (TFR)
virial theorem
Voigt profile
Wilson-Bappu effect