The luminosity of the central source in ionizing radiation is an essential parameter in a photoionized environment and is one of the most fundamental physical quantities one can measure. We outline a method of determining the luminosity for any emission-line region using only infrared data. In dusty environments, grains compete with hydrogen in absorbing continuum radiation. Grains produce infrared emission, and hydrogen produces recombination lines. We have computed a very large variety of photoionization models, using ranges of abundances, grain mixtures, ionizing continua, densities, and ionization parameters. The conditions were appropriate for such diverse objects as H(II) regions, planetary nebulae, starburst galaxies, and the narrow- and broad-line regions of active nuclei. The ratio of the total thermal grain emission relative to H-Beta (IR/H-Beta) is the primary indicator of whether the cloud behaves as a classical Stroemgren sphere (a hydrogen-bounded nebula) or whether grains absorb most of the incident continuum (a dust-bounded nebula). We find two global limits: when IR/H-Beta 〈 100, infrared recombination lines determine the source luminosity in ionizing photons; when IR/H-Beta 〉〉 100, the grains act as a bolometer to measure the luminosity.
Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific; 110; 1040-1045