Recent Copernicus observations of high-velocity interstellar Si III have been interpreted as evidence for collisionally ionized gas at 30,000 to 80,000 K. In this paper, these observations are summarized, and conductive-interface and shock-heating mechanisms are investigated as sources for the temperatures, column densities, and velocity fields. The conductive mechanism evidently cannot reproduce the observations, but radiatively cooling shocks of 50 to 100 km/s, produced by supernova remnants or stellar winds, may provide a viable explanation. Time-dependent calculations of the cooling and ionization behind such shocks show the importance of initial ionization conditions at 100,000 K and produce results substantially different from those of calculations which start at 1 million K.
Astrophysical Journal; vol. 216