skip to main content

Title: Characterizing the magnetic fields of nearby molecular clouds using submillimeter polarization observations
ABSTRACT Of all the factors that influence star formation, magnetic fields are perhaps the least well understood. The goal of this paper is to characterize the 3D magnetic field properties of nearby molecular clouds through various methods of statistically analysing maps of polarized dust emission. Our study focuses on nine clouds, with data taken from the Planck Sky Survey as well as data from the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope for Polarimetry observations of Vela C. We compare the distributions of polarization fraction (p), dispersion in polarization angles ($\mathcal {S}$), and hydrogen column density (NH) for each of our targeted clouds. To broaden the scope of our analysis, we compare the distributions of our clouds’ polarization observables with measurements from synthetic polarization maps generated from numerical simulations. We also use the distribution of polarization fraction measurements to estimate the inclination angle of each cloud’s cloud-scale magnetic field. We obtain a range of inclination angles associated with our clouds, varying from 16○ to 69○. We establish inverse correlations between p and both $\mathcal {S}$ and NH in almost every cloud, but we are unable to establish a statistically robust $\mathcal {S}$ versus NH trend. By comparing the results of these different statistical more » analysis techniques, we are able to propose a more comprehensive view of each cloud’s 3D magnetic field properties. These detailed cloud analyses will be useful in the continued studies of cloud-scale magnetic fields and the ways in which they affect star formation within these molecular clouds. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1716259 1815784
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10280518
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume:
503
Issue:
4
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
5006 to 5024
ISSN:
0035-8711
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. ABSTRACT The role played by magnetic field during star formation is an important topic in astrophysics. We investigate the correlation between the orientation of star-forming cores (as defined by the core major axes) and ambient magnetic field directions in (i) a 3D magnetohydrodynamic simulation, (ii) synthetic observations generated from the simulation at different viewing angles, and (iii) observations of nearby molecular clouds. We find that the results on relative alignment between cores and background magnetic field in synthetic observations slightly disagree with those measured in fully 3D simulation data, which is partly because cores identified in projected 2D maps tend to coexist within filamentary structures, while 3D cores are generally more rounded. In addition, we examine the progression of magnetic field from pc to core scale in the simulation, which is consistent with the anisotropic core formation model that gas preferably flows along the magnetic field towards dense cores. When comparing the observed cores identified from the Green Bank Ammonia Survey and Planck polarization-inferred magnetic field orientations, we find that the relative core–field alignment has a regional dependence among different clouds. More specifically, we find that dense cores in the Taurus molecular cloud tend to align perpendicular to the backgroundmore »magnetic field, while those in Perseus and Ophiuchus tend to have random (Perseus) or slightly parallel (Ophiuchus) orientations with respect to the field. We argue that this feature of relative core–field orientation could be used to probe the relative significance of the magnetic field within the cloud.« less
  2. ABSTRACT

    Polarized dust emission is a key tracer in the study of interstellar medium and of star formation. The observed polarization, however, is a product of magnetic field structure, dust grain properties, and grain alignment efficiency, as well as their variations in the line of sight, making it difficult to interpret polarization unambiguously. The comparison of polarimetry at multiple wavelengths is a possible way of mitigating this problem. We use data from HAWC+ /SOFIA and from SCUBA-2/POL-2 (from the BISTRO survey) to analyse the NGC 2071 molecular cloud at 154, 214, and 850 $\mu$m. The polarization angle changes significantly with wavelength over part of NGC 2071, suggesting a change in magnetic field morphology on the line of sight as each wavelength best traces different dust populations. Other possible explanations are the existence of more than one polarization mechanism in the cloud or scattering from very large grains. The observed change of polarization fraction with wavelength, and the 214-to-154 $\mu$m polarization ratio in particular, are difficult to reproduce with current dust models under the assumption of uniform alignment efficiency. We also show that the standard procedure of using monochromatic intensity as a proxy for column density may produce spurious results at HAWC+wavelengths.more »Using both long-wavelength (POL-2, 850 $\mu$m) and short-wavelength (HAWC+, $\lesssim 200\, \mu$m) polarimetry is key in obtaining these results. This study clearly shows the importance of multi-wavelength polarimetry at submillimetre bands to understand the dust properties of molecular clouds and the relationship between magnetic field and star formation.

    « less
  3. ABSTRACT Understanding the evolution of self-gravitating, isothermal, magnetized gas is crucial for star formation, as these physical processes have been postulated to set the initial mass function (IMF). We present a suite of isothermal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations using the gizmo code that follow the formation of individual stars in giant molecular clouds (GMCs), spanning a range of Mach numbers found in observed GMCs ($\mathcal {M} \sim 10\!-\!50$). As in past works, the mean and median stellar masses are sensitive to numerical resolution, because they are sensitive to low-mass stars that contribute a vanishing fraction of the overall stellar mass. The mass-weighted median stellar mass M50 becomes insensitive to resolution once turbulent fragmentation is well resolved. Without imposing Larson-like scaling laws, our simulations find $M_\mathrm{50} \,\, \buildrel\propto \over \sim \,\,M_\mathrm{0} \mathcal {M}^{-3} \alpha _\mathrm{turb}\, \mathrm{SFE}^{1/3}$ for GMC mass M0, sonic Mach number $\mathcal {M}$, virial parameter αturb, and star formation efficiency SFE = M⋆/M0. This fit agrees well with previous IMF results from the ramses, orion2, and sphng codes. Although M50 has no significant dependence on the magnetic field strength at the cloud scale, MHD is necessary to prevent a fragmentation cascade that results in non-convergent stellar masses. For initial conditions andmore »SFE similar to star-forming GMCs in our Galaxy, we predict M50 to be $\gt 20 \, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$, an order of magnitude larger than observed ($\sim 2 \, \mathrm{M}_\odot$), together with an excess of brown dwarfs. Moreover, M50 is sensitive to initial cloud properties and evolves strongly in time within a given cloud, predicting much larger IMF variations than are observationally allowed. We conclude that physics beyond MHD turbulence and gravity are necessary ingredients for the IMF.« less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract We present a large suite of MHD simulations of turbulent, star-forming giant molecular clouds (GMCs) with stellar feedback, extending previous work by simulating 10 different random realizations for each point in the parameter space of cloud mass and size. It is found that once the clouds disperse due to stellar feedback, both self-gravitating star clusters and unbound stars generally remain, which arise from the same underlying continuum of substructured stellar density, ie. the hierarchical cluster formation scenario. The fraction of stars that are born within gravitationally-bound star clusters is related to the overall cloud star formation efficiency set by stellar feedback, but has significant scatter due to stochastic variations in the small-scale details of the star-forming gas flow. We use our numerical results to calibrate a model for mapping the bulk properties (mass, size, and metallicity) of self-gravitating GMCs onto the star cluster populations they form, expressed statistically in terms of cloud-level distributions. Synthesizing cluster catalogues from an observed GMC catalogue in M83, we find that this model predicts initial star cluster masses and sizes that are in good agreement with observations, using only standard IMF and stellar evolution models as inputs for feedback. Within our model, the ratiomore »of the strength of gravity to stellar feedback is the key parameter setting the masses of star clusters, and of the various feedback channels direct stellar radiation (photon momentum and photoionization) is the most important on GMC scales.« less
  5. ABSTRACT It is well known that the polarized continuum emission from magnetically aligned dust grains is determined to a large extent by local magnetic field structure. However, the observed significant anticorrelation between polarization fraction and column density may be strongly affected, perhaps even dominated by variations in grain alignment efficiency with local conditions, in contrast to standard assumptions of a spatially homogeneous grain alignment efficiency. Here we introduce a generic way to incorporate heterogeneous grain alignment into synthetic polarization observations of molecular clouds (MCs), through a simple model where the grain alignment efficiency depends on the local gas density as a power law. We justify the model using results derived from radiative torque alignment theory. The effects of power-law heterogeneous alignment models on synthetic observations of simulated MCs are presented. We find that the polarization fraction-column density correlation can be brought into agreement with observationally determined values through heterogeneous alignment, though there remains degeneracy with the relative strength of cloud-scale magnetized turbulence and the mean magnetic field orientation relative to the observer. We also find that the dispersion in polarization angles-polarization fraction correlation remains robustly correlated despite the simultaneous changes to both observables in the presence of heterogeneous alignment.