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A thermal model for nanosecond pulsed laser ablation of Cu in one dimension and in ambient gas, He at 1 atm, is proposed in which equations concerning heat conduction in the target and gas dynamics in the plume are solved. These equations are coupled to each other through the energy and mass balances at interface between the target and the vapor and also Knudsen layer conditions. By assumption of local thermal equilibrium, Saha–Eggert equations are used to investigate plasma formation. The shielding effect of the plasma, due to photoionization and inverse bremsstrahlung processes, is considered. Bremsstrahlung and blackbody radiation and spectral emissions of the plasma are also investigated. Spatial and temporal distribution of the target temperature, number densities of Cu and He, pressure and temperature of the plume, bremsstrahlung and blackbody radiation, and also spectral emissions of Cu at three wavelengths (510, 516, and 521 nm) are obtained. Results show that the spectral power of Cu lines has the same pattern as CuI relative intensities from National Institute of Standard and Technology. Investigation of spatially integrated bremsstrahlung and blackbody radiation, and also Cu spectral emissions indicates that although in early times the bremsstrahlung radiation dominates the two other radiations, the Copper spectral emission is the dominant radiation in later times. It should be mentioned that the blackbody radiation has the least values in both time intervals. The results can be used for prediction of the optimum time and position of the spectral line emission, which is applicable in some time resolved spectroscopic techniques such as laser induced breakdown spectroscopy. Furthermore, the results suggest that for distinguishing between the spectral emission and the bremsstrahlung radiation, a spatially resolved spectroscopy can be used instead of the time resolved one.