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Title: Grain Alignment in the Circumstellar Shell of IRC+10° 216

Dust-induced polarization in the interstellar medium (ISM) is due to asymmetric grains aligned with an external reference direction, usually the magnetic field. For both the leading alignment theories, the alignment of the grain’s angular momentum with one of its principal axes and the coupling with the magnetic field requires the grain to be paramagnetic. Of the two main components of interstellar dust, silicates are paramagnetic, while carbon dust is diamagnetic. Hence, carbon grains are not expected to align in the ISM. To probe the physics of carbon grain alignment, we have acquired Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy/Higch-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-plus far-infrared photometry and polarimetry of the carbon-rich circumstellar envelope (CSE) of the asymptotic giant branch star IRC+10° 216. The dust in such CSEs are fully carbonaceous and thus provide unique laboratories for probing carbon grain alignment. We find a centrosymmetric, radial, polarization pattern, where the polarization fraction is well correlated with the dust temperature. Together with estimates of a low fractional polarization from optical polarization of background stars, we interpret these results to be due to a second-order, direct radiative external alignment of grains without internal alignment. Our results indicate that (pure) carbon dust does not contribute significantly to more » the observed ISM polarization, consistent with the nondetection of polarization in the 3.4μm feature due to aliphatic CH bonds on the grain surface.

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The Astrophysical Journal
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Article No. 80
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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