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  1. Abstract

    Continuum polarization over the UV-to-microwave range is due to dichroic extinction (or emission) by asymmetric, aligned dust grains. Scattering can also be an important source of polarization, especially at short wavelengths. Because of both grain alignment and scattering physics, the wavelength dependence of the polarization, generally, traces the size of the aligned grains. Similarly because of the differing wavelength dependencies of dichroic extinction and scattering polarization, the two can generally be reliably separated. Ultraviolet (UV) polarimetry therefore provides a unique probe of the smallest dust grains (diameter$< 0.09~\upmu \text{m}$<0.09μm), their mineralogy and interaction with the environment. However, the current observational status of interstellar UV polarization is very poor with less than 30 lines of sight probed. With the modern, quantitative and well-tested, theory of interstellar grain alignment now available, we have the opportunity to advance the understanding of the interstellar medium (ISM) by executing a systematic study of the UV polarization in the ISM of the Milky Way and near-by galaxies. The Polstar mission will provide the sensitivity and observing time needed to carry out such a program (probing hundreds of stars in the Milky Way and dozens of stars in the LMC/SMC), addressing questions of dust composition asmore »a function of size and location, radiation- and magnetic-field characteristics as well as unveiling the carrier of the 2175 Å extinction feature. In addition, using high-resolution UV line spectroscopy Polstar will search for and probe the alignment of, and polarization from, aligned atoms and ions - so called “Ground State Alignment”, a potentially powerful new probe of magnetic fields in the diffuse ISM.

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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  3. Abstract We have measured the gas temperature in the IC 63 photodissociation region (PDR) using the S(1) and S(5) pure rotation lines of molecular hydrogen with SOFIA/EXES. We divide the PDR into three regions for analysis based on the illumination from γ Cas: sunny, ridge, and shady. Constructing rotation diagrams for the different regions, we obtain temperatures of T ex = 562 − 43 + 52 K toward the ridge and T ex = 495 − 25 + 28 K in the shady side. The H 2 emission was not detected on the sunny side of the ridge, likely due to the photodissociation of H 2 in this gas. Our temperature values are lower than the value of T ex = 685 ± 68 K using the S(1), S(3), and S(5) pure rotation lines, derived by Thi et al. using lower spatial resolution ISO-SWS data at a different location of the IC 63 PDR. This difference indicates that the PDR is inhomogeneous and illustrates the need for high-resolution mapping of such regions to fully understand their physics. The detection of a temperature gradient correlated with the extinction into the cloud, points to the ability of using H 2 pure rotationalmore »line spectroscopy to map the gas temperature on small scales. We used a PDR model to estimate the FUV radiation and corresponding gas densities in IC 63. Our results shows the capability of SOFIA/EXES to resolve and provide detailed information on the temperature in such regions.« less
  4. Abstract

    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 tomore »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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  5. Abstract Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud and mostly irradiated by the massive star cluster R136, 30 Doradus is an ideal target to test the leading theory of grain alignment and rotational disruption by RAdiative Torques (RATs). Here, we use publicly available polarized thermal dust emission observations of 30 Doradus at 89, 154, and 214 μ m using SOFIA/HAWC+. We analyze the variation of the dust polarization degree ( p ) with the total emission intensity ( I ), the dust temperature ( T d ), and the gas column density ( N H ) constructed from Herschel data. The 30 Doradus complex is divided into two main regions relative to R136, namely North and South. In the North, we find that the polarization degree first decreases and then increases before decreasing again when the dust temperature increases toward the irradiating cluster R136. The first depolarization likely arises from the decrease in grain alignment efficiency toward the dense medium due to the attenuation of the interstellar radiation field and the increase in the gas density. The second trend (the increase of p with T d ) is consistent with the RAT alignment theory. The final trend (the decrease of pmore »with T d ) is consistent with the RAT alignment theory only when the grain rotational disruption by RATs is taken into account. In the South, we find that the polarization degree is nearly independent of the dust temperature, while the grain alignment efficiency is higher around the peak of the gas column density and decreases toward the radiation source. The latter feature is also consistent with the prediction of rotational disruption by RATs.« less
  6. Abstract Star formation primarily occurs in filaments where magnetic fields are expected to be dynamically important. The largest and densest filaments trace the spiral structure within galaxies. Over a dozen of these dense (∼10 4 cm −3 ) and long (>10 pc) filaments have been found within the Milky Way, and they are often referred to as “bones.” Until now, none of these bones has had its magnetic field resolved and mapped in its entirety. We introduce the SOFIA legacy project FIELDMAPS which has begun mapping ∼10 of these Milky Way bones using the HAWC+ instrument at 214 μ m and 18.″2 resolution. Here we present a first result from this survey on the ∼60 pc long bone G47. Contrary to some studies of dense filaments in the Galactic plane, we find that the magnetic field is often not perpendicular to the spine (i.e., the center line of the bone). Fields tend to be perpendicular in the densest areas of active star formation and more parallel or random in other areas. The average field is neither parallel nor perpendicular to the Galactic plane or the bone. The magnetic field strengths along the spine typically vary from ∼20 to ∼100 μmore »G. Magnetic fields tend to be strong enough to suppress collapse along much of the bone, but for areas that are most active in star formation, the fields are notably less able to resist gravitational collapse.« less