Temperatures of about 20 000°K with ion densities ranging from 1017 to 1018 cm−3 have been produced in helium by means of explosive‐driven shocks. Helium was used because of its relatively simple structure, but this choice eliminated usual shock methods because of the high sound speed and high ionization potential. Shock waves having sufficient strength and planarity were obtained by reflecting against a glass plate initially strong shock waves produced by high explosives. Equilibrium calculations based on smear camera velocities of accurately plane shocks were used to determine the state of the gas behind the reflected shock wave.
The light emitted consisted of a continuum on which were superimposed shifted and broadened lines of the normal helium spectrum and forbidden lines as well. Time‐resolved spectrograms showed evidence of a measurable relaxation time at the shock front but no evidence of significant radiative cooling of the gas behind the shock.
Under the conditions of these experiments, it was demonstrated that a quantitative prediction of the behavior of the helium states with principal quantum numbers 2, 3, and 4 requires consideration of the effects of electrons as well as ions.