A New Exact Method for Line Radiative Transfer

Astronomy and Astrophysics – Astrophysics

Scientific paper

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To be published in MNRAS, 13 pages, 10 figures

Scientific paper

10.1111/j.1365-2966.2005.09770.x

We present a new method, the Coupled Escape Probability (CEP), for exact calculation of line emission from multi-level systems, solving only algebraic equations for the level populations. The CEP formulation of the classical two-level problem is a set of {\em linear equations}, and we uncover an exact analytic expression for the emission from two-level optically thick sources that holds as long as they are in the "effectively thin" regime. In comparative study of a number of standard problems, the CEP method outperformed the leading line transfer methods by substantial margins. The algebraic equations employed by our new method are already incorporated in numerous codes based on the escape probability approximation. All that is required for an exact solution with these existing codes is to augment the expression for the escape probability with simple zone-coupling terms. As an application, we find that standard escape probability calculations generally produce the correct cooling emission by the CII 158 mic line but not by the $^3$P lines of OI.

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