Astrophysics (Index)About


(metal, Fe, atomic number 26)

Iron (Fe) is the element with atomic number 26, symbol Fe. The common isotope has a mass number of 56, but mass numbers 54, 57, and 58 are also stable. It is the most stable product of fusion in stars. Because iron can be detected at a distance, the ratio of iron to hydrogen is used as an approximate measure of metallicity. This is expressed as the numerical value [Fe/H], which indicates the log of the ratio of iron atoms to hydrogen atoms (e.g., of a star, cloud, or galaxy) minus the same for the Sun, i.e., "[Fe/H] = 0.0" means "same iron abundance as the Sun".

Shock can excited iron [Fe II] forbidden lines at 1.257 micron and 1.644 micron, which can be observed.

Iron lines are a target of solar observation: various solar emission lines, including many from ionized iron, are used in observations of the Sun's surface and corona; the many lines from iron ionization states up into the twenties provide clues regarding the temperature, which may reveal which atmospheric layer produced them, and their Doppler shift may reveal radial velocity, a clue to details of solar activity.

In extremely hot environments, such as some active galactic nuclei, iron may be ionized to the point that it has a few or no electrons (such as Fe XXV, missing 25 electrons), and spectral lines associated with these states are of interest.

Further reading:

Referenced by pages:
asymptotic giant branch (AGB)
alpha element
alpha process
chemical equilibrium (CE)
Compton reflection
core collapse
cosmic dust
crustal magnetism
electron shell
exotic star
field lines
Fraunhofer lines
G band
ionization potential
iron peak
iron peak element
Lambda Boötis star (λ Boo)
magnetic anomaly
magnetic field
maximum iron fraction
metallicity (Z)
neutron star (NS)
nickel (Ni)
planetary differentiation
post-main-sequence star
refractory material
silicon (Si)
silicon burning
trans-iron element
water-ice planet