EDP Sciences
Free access
Issue
A&A
Volume 376, Number 3, September IV 2001
Page(s) L35 - L38
Section Letters
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011085


A&A 376, L35-L38 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20011085

Mid infrared polarisation of Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies

R. Siebenmorgen1 and A. Efstathiou2

1  European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschildstr. 2, 85748 Garching b.München, Germany
2  Astrophysics Group, Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College of Science Technology & Medicine, Prince Consort Rd., London. SW7 2BZ, UK

(Received 25 May 2001 / Accepted 30 July 2001 )

Abstract
The mid infrared polarisation properties of four Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies (ULIRGs) have been investigated by broad band filter observations with the ISOCAM instrument on board the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO). The wavelength region from 5 to 18 $\mu$m was selected where the emission from the putative torus peaks. We report detection of polarisation for all ULIRGs studied. The fractional polarisation ranges from ~3% up to 8% . The highest polarisation is recorded in Mrk 231 which has a clear AGN signature, whereas the lowest is for Arp 220, which is generally thought to be powered predominantly by star formation. We discuss the various mechanisms that could give rise to the polarisation and conclude that the most likely interpretation is that it is due to magnetically aligned elongated dust grains. This is the same mechanism believed to be operating in a number of galactic sources. The position angle of polarisation could give the projected magnetic field direction and therefore constrain models for the formation of the tori.


Key words: polarisation -- infrared: galaxies -- galaxies: ISM -- galaxies: individual: Mrk 231, Arp 220, IRAS 15250+3609, Mrk 273

Offprint request: R. Siebenmorgen, rsiebenm@eso.org

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