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  1. 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 statisticalmore »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
  2. 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.