A review of some aspects related to the abundance determinations of planetary nebulae, galactic H II regions and extragalactic H II regions is presented. The effect of the temperature structure of gaseous nebulae on the abundance determinations is explored. The relevance of abundance determinations to some aspects of the study of the evolution of stars, galaxies and the universe is discussed.
From the study of the emission lines produced in galactic and extragalactic gaseous nebulae it has been possible to derive abundances of H, He, C, N, O, Ne, S and Ar. The chemical composition of these gaseous nebulae is needed to understand their physical conditions as well as their evolution. These abundances are also paramount to constrain evolutionary models of stars, galaxies and the universe.
Reviews and textbooks on the physical processes taking place in ionized nebulae have been presented by many astronomers, classic ones are those by Seaton (1960), Aller (1984) and Osterbrock (1989).
Some abundances have been determined based on detailed photoionization models while most abundances have been determined based on simple empirical methods. The input of a photoionization model consists of: a) a stellar radiation field, b) an electron density distribution, Ne(r), (which defines the geometry of the nebula, c) a dust distribution, Nd(r), and d) abundance distributions, which in most cases have been assumed homogeneous. The output consists of: a) a set of line intensities, b) the electron temperature distribution, Te(r), and c) the ionization structure.