Interferometric observations of profiles of He I λ 10830 emission lines in 11 planetary nebulae, and in selected regions of the Orion Nebula, are presented. In common with the Orion Nebula, the planetaries are shown to emit a P Cygni-like λ 10830 line, with the absorption component shifted toward the violet with respect to the laboratory wavelength in a frame of reference at rest in the centre of expansion of the gas. The emission components are shifted toward the red. In planetaries, the negative displacements of the absorption edges are, in general, approximately equal to the widths, β, of the emission components which, in turn, range from about 12 km/sec in IC 418 to about 28 km/sec in NGC 6210. The emission red-shift is about 0·7 β on the average, but individual shifts vary from 0·5 β in IC 2149 to 1·05 β in NGC 6826. The line widths and shifts tend to increase in nebulae with larger expansion velocities. In Orion, the absorption edges in the λ 10830 line coincide in velocity with those in the line He I λ 3888 observed against the spectra of the Trapezium stars. In planetaries, the absorption edges in the λ 10830 line appear qualitatively similar to those in the line He I λ 3888, but a coincidence in velocity could not be demonstrated.
The observed profiles indicate that the nebulae are expanding, or that they contain expanding globules or filaments. Some form of circumnebular absorbing zone may be indicated. However, it is suggested that frequency redistribution associated with resonance-like scattering in a homogeneous expanding medium might in principle (even in the absence of stratification) account for the shifted λ 10830 profiles. (See Hummer, D.G. and Rybicki, G.B. (1968), Astrophys. J. Letters (in press), for a further discussion of this point.)
No trace of He3 is evident from the profiles. Quantitative conclusions are uncertain without a model which reproduces most of the phenomena, but an upper limit of He3/He4 ≤ 0·05 or even 0·01 is suggested on the basis of conservative assumptions.