Benchmarking Charge Exchange Theory in the Dawning Era of Space-Borne High-Resolution X-ray Spectrometers


Charge Exchange (CX) is a process in which a highly charged ion captures one or more electrons from a neutral atom or molecule into an excited state during a close interaction. The electron's subsequent radiative cascade to the ground state produces diagnostic line emission in the X-ray band. CX with solar wind ions occurs frequently in the solar system, and CX may also occur astrophysically.

In order to properly identify CX in astrophysical spectra and make use of its diagnostic properties, we must be able to model the emission. Theoretical treatments of CX are often computationally expensive, experimental benchmarks at high resolution are fairly scarce, and there is often poor agreement between the two.

This dissertation seeks to build a better understanding of the mechanics and spectral signatures of CX through high-resolution experimental data paired with theoretical calculations of CX. Chapter 1 outlines the necessary ingredients for modeling and identifying CX spectra, describes several astrophysical environments in which CX has been observed or postulated to occur, and presents some of the challenges we are facing in identifying and understanding this emission. Chapter 2 describes the theoretical and computational tools used in this work. Chapter 3 discusses the experimental tools and facilities we use, namely an Electron Beam Ion Trap (EBIT) and an X-ray microcalorimeter. Chapter 4 presents experimental K-shell data that highlights both the subtle nature of the CX interaction and the difficulty in including those nuances in spectral synthesis codes. Chapter 5 presents the first high-resolution L-shell CX spectra of Ne-like Ni and describes what we can learn from these results. In Chapter 6, we take these data a step further and present a pipeline to calculate relative state-selective capture cross sections, previously only available from theoretical modeling. We then compare some of our results to theory. In Chapter 7, we discuss several future steps for our work.