Astrophysics (Index)About

column density

(measure of the matter through which EMR is passing)

Column density is a measure of the amount of matter along some particular span, such as that along the line-of-sight from a star. Specifically, it is the amount of matter per unit of area, the area being the cross-section of a tube-shape along the distance. Column mass density is mass per unit area, e.g., g/cm2 and column number density is the molecules (specifically, any particles present that the photons could react with) per unit area, e.g., cm-2.

Column density is equivalent to surface density, each being a measure of the density through one dimension of a volume. The term surface density is generally used for measures through relatively flat volumes whereas column density is generally used for such a measurement through a volume that must traverse some significant distance. The term column density is likely to be used for the case of particles along the line-of-sight to star, whereas surface density, of particles over the course of the thickness of a disk.

Further reading:

Referenced by pages:
dispersion measure (DM)
line broadening
Lockman hole
particle number (N)
pulsar (PSR)
surface density (Σ)
Thomson optical depth (τT)