Time-resolved spectroscopic measurements have been made of absolute intensities, spectral profiles, and self-absorption for He i lines in the early helium afterglow. Population densities are calculated for the excited states, including metastable states, as a function of time. Electron densities, electron temperatures, and Doppler temperatures are derived from the data. Similar emission and self-absorption measurements of He2 spectra indicate an increase in molecular populations during the early afterglow. An interpretation identifies the 3S1 atomic metastables as a source of continued ionization and heating of the plasma and a participant in the formation of metastable helium molecules.
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