New Measurement Resolves Key Astrophysical Fe XVII Oscillator Strength Problem

Phys Rev Lett. 2022 Dec 9;129(24):245001. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.129.245001.


One of the most enduring and intensively studied problems of x-ray astronomy is the disagreement of state-of-the art theory and observations for the intensity ratio of two Fe XVII transitions of crucial value for plasma diagnostics, dubbed 3C and 3D. We unravel this conundrum at the PETRA III synchrotron facility by increasing the resolving power 2.5 times and the signal-to-noise ratio thousandfold compared with our previous work. The Lorentzian wings had hitherto been indistinguishable from the background and were thus not modeled, resulting in a biased line-strength estimation. The present experimental oscillator-strength ratio R_{exp}=f_{3C}/f_{3D}=3.51(2)_{stat}(7)_{sys} agrees with our state-of-the-art calculation of R_{th}=3.55(2), as well as with some previous theoretical predictions. To further rule out any uncertainties associated with the measured ratio, we also determined the individual natural linewidths and oscillator strengths of 3C and 3D transitions, which also agree well with the theory. This finally resolves the decades-old mystery of Fe XVII oscillator strengths.