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    The size of dust grains, a, is key to the physical and chemical processes in circumstellar discs, but observational constraints of grain size remain challenging. (Sub)millimetre continuum observations often show a per cent-level polarization parallel to the disc minor axis, which is generally attributed to scattering by ${\sim}100\, \mu{\rm m}$-sized spherical grains (with a size parameter x ≡ 2$\pi$a/λ < 1, where λ is the wavelength). Larger spherical grains (with x greater than unity) would produce opposite polarization direction. However, the inferred size is in tension with the opacity index β that points to larger mm/cm-sized grains. We investigate the scattering-produced polarization by large irregular grains with a range of x greater than unity with optical properties obtained from laboratory experiments. Using the radiation transfer code, RADMC-3D, we find that large irregular grains still produce polarization parallel to the disc minor axis. If the original forsterite refractive index in the optical is adopted, then all samples can produce the typically observed level of polarization. Accounting for the more commonly adopted refractive index using the DSHARP dust model, only grains with x of several (corresponding to ∼mm-sized grains) can reach the same polarization level. Our results suggest that grains in discs canmore »have sizes in the millimetre regime, which may alleviate the tension between the grain sizes inferred from scattering and other means. Additionally, if large irregular grains are not settled to the mid-plane, their strong forward scattering can produce asymmetries between the near and far side of an inclined disc, which can be used to infer their presence.

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    Telescopes are now able to resolve dust polarization across circumstellar discs at multiple wavelengths, allowing the study of the polarization spectrum. Most discs show clear evidence of dust scattering through their unidirectional polarization pattern typically at the shorter wavelength of $\sim 870 \, \mu$m. However, certain discs show an elliptical pattern at ∼3 mm, which is likely due to aligned grains. With HL Tau, its polarization pattern at ∼1.3 mm shows a transition between the two patterns making it the first example to reveal such transition. We use the T-matrix method to model elongated dust grains and properly treat scattering of aligned non-spherical grains with a plane-parallel slab model. We demonstrate that a change in optical depth can naturally explain the polarization transition of HL Tau. At low optical depths, the thermal polarization dominates, while at high optical depths, dichroic extinction effectively takes out the thermal polarization and scattering polarization dominates. Motivated by results from the plane-parallel slab, we develop a simple technique to disentangle thermal polarization of the aligned grains T0 and polarization due to scattering S using the azimuthal variation of the polarization fraction. We find that, with increasing wavelength, the fractional polarization spectrum of the scattering component Smore »decreases, while the thermal component T0 increases, which is expected since the optical depth decreases. We find several other sources similar to HL Tau that can be explained by azimuthally aligned scattering prolate grains when including optical depth effects. In addition, we explore how spirally aligned grains with scattering can appear in polarization images.

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  3. Abstract We present 870 μ m Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array polarization observations of thermal dust emission from the iconic, edge-on debris disk β Pic. While the spatially resolved map does not exhibit detectable polarized dust emission, we detect polarization at the ∼3 σ level when averaging the emission across the entire disk. The corresponding polarization fraction is P frac = 0.51% ± 0.19%. The polarization position angle χ is aligned with the minor axis of the disk, as expected from models of dust grains aligned via radiative alignment torques (RAT) with respect to a toroidal magnetic field ( B -RAT) or with respect to the anisotropy in the radiation field ( k -RAT). When averaging the polarized emission across the outer versus inner thirds of the disk, we find that the polarization arises primarily from the SW third. We perform synthetic observations assuming grain alignment via both k -RAT and B -RAT. Both models produce polarization fractions close to our observed value when the emission is averaged across the entire disk. When we average the models in the inner versus outer thirds of the disk, we find that k -RAT is the likely mechanism producing the polarized emission in βmore »Pic. A comparison of timescales relevant to grain alignment also yields the same conclusion. For dust grains with realistic aspect ratios (i.e., s > 1.1), our models imply low grain-alignment efficiencies.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  4. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Polarized dust continuum emission has been observed with Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in an increasing number of deeply embedded protostellar systems. It generally shows a sharp transition going from the protostellar envelope to the disc scale, with the polarization fraction typically dropping from ${\sim } 5{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ to ${\sim } 1{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ and the inferred magnetic field orientations becoming more aligned with the major axis of the system. We quantitatively investigate these observational trends using a sample of protostars in the Perseus molecular cloud and compare these features with a non-ideal magnetohydrodynamic disc formation simulation. We find that the gas density increases faster than the magnetic field strength in the transition from the envelope to the disc scale, which makes it more difficult to magnetically align the grains on the disc scale. Specifically, to produce the observed ${\sim } 1{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ polarization at ${\sim } 100\, \mathrm{au}$ scale via grains aligned with the B-field, even relatively small grains of $1\, \mathrm{\mu m}$ in size need to have their magnetic susceptibilities significantly enhanced (by a factor of ∼20) over the standard value, potentially through superparamagnetic inclusions. This requirement is more stringent for larger grains,more »with the enhancement factor increasing linearly with the grain size, reaching ∼2 × 104 for millimetre-sized grains. Even if the required enhancement can be achieved, the resulting inferred magnetic field orientation in the simulation does not show a preference for the major axis, which is inconsistent with the observed pattern. We thus conclude that the observed trends are best described by the model where the polarization on the envelope scale is dominated by magnetically aligned grains and that on the disc scale by scattering.« less
  5. ABSTRACT A number of young circumstellar discs show strikingly ordered (sub)millimetre polarization orientations along the minor axis, which is strong evidence for polarization due to scattering by ∼0.1 mm-sized grains. To test this mechanism further, we model the ALMA dust continuum and polarization data of HD 163296 using radmc-3d. We find that scattering by grains with a maximum size of 90  μm simultaneously reproduces the polarization observed at Band 7 and the unusually low spectral index (α ∼ 1.5) between Bands 7 and 6 in the optically thick inner disc as a result of more efficient scattering at the shorter wavelength. The low spectral index of ∼2.5 inferred for the optically thin gaps is reproduced by the same grains, as a result of telescope beam averaging of the gaps (with an intrinsic α ∼ 4) and their adjacent optically thick rings (where α ≲ 2). The tension between the grain sizes inferred from polarization and spectral index disappears because the low α values do not require large mm-sized grains. In addition, the polarization fraction has a unique azimuthal variation: higher along the major axis than the minor axis in the gaps, but vice versa in the rings. We find a rapidlymore »declining polarization spectrum (with p ∝ λ−3 approximately) in the gaps, which becomes flattened or even inverted towards short wavelengths in the optically thick rings. These contrasting behaviours in the rings and gaps provide further tests for scattering-induced polarization via resolved multiwavelength observations.« less