DEUTERIUM OBSERVATIONS IN THE GALAXY

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Abstract

An accurate measurement of the primordial value of D/H would provide one of the best tests of nucleosynthesis models for the early Universe and the baryon density. Such evaluations have been traditionally made using present estimations of the deuterium abundance in the interstellar medium, extrapolated backwards in time with the use of galactic evolution models. Direct estimations of the primordial deuterium abundance have been carried out only recently in QSOs absorbers at high redshift.

We will summarize galactic observations of deuterium and suggest that, perhaps, a single D/H value for the interstellar medium is not representative. These evaluations mainly came from observations completed in the far UV with first the Copernicus satellite over the Lyman lines series followed then by H and D Lyman-alpha lines observations with both the IUE and the GHRS on the Hubble Space Telescope. We discuss different known systematics and show that the situation is not yet clear. It is not possible today to claim that we know “the” D/H value in the interstellar medium, if any.

Overall and in the context of additional D observations made in the solar system, we conclude that the actual evolution of deuterium from Big-Bang nucleosynthesis to now is not yet understood. More observations, recently made with IMAPS (the Interstellar Medium Absorption Profile Spectrograph) and hopefully to be made with FUSE (the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer to be launched in the fall of 1998), at higher spectral resolution or in many different galactic sites are certainly needed to help us reach a better global view of the evolution of that key element, and thus better constrain any evaluation of its primordial abundance.

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