HELIUM-3: STATUS AND PROSPECTS

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Abstract

We report on our continuing efforts to determine 3He abundances in H II regions and planetary nebulae. Our detections of 3He in some PNe show that some stars produce large amounts of 3He. However the H II region abundances show no evidence for this production. From our sample of > 40 H II regions, the subsample which should yield the most reliable abundances has 3He/H abundances which scatter between 1–2 × 10−5. There is no trend with either galactocentric distance or metallicity. Even if we do not understand the underlying mechanisms, we see empirically that stars neither produce nor destroy 3He in a major way. We thus suggest that the level of the “3He Plateau” (3He/H = 1.5+1−0−0-5 × 10−5) is a reasonable estimate for the primordial 3He.

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