EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 421, Number 3, July III 2004
Page(s) 1011 - 1019
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20034444

A&A 421, 1011-1019 (2004)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20034444

Canals beyond Mars: Beam depolarization in radio continuum maps of the warm ISM

M. Haverkorn1, 2 and F. Heitsch3, 4, 5

1  Sterrewacht Leiden PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
2  Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street MS-67, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA
3  Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
4  University of Wisconsin-Madison, 475 N Charter St, Madison, WI 53706, USA
5  Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Universität München, Scheinerstr. 1, 81679 München, Germany
    e-mail: heitsch@usm.uni-muenchen.de

(Received 5 October 2003 / Accepted 8 March 2004)

Multi-frequency radio polarimetric observations of the diffuse Galactic synchrotron background enable us to study the structure of the diffuse ionized gas via rotation measure maps. However, depolarization will introduce artifacts in the resulting rotation measure (RM), most notably in the form of narrow, elongated "depolarization canals". We use numerical models of a non-emitting Faraday rotating medium to study the RM distribution needed to create depolarization canals by depolarization due to a finite beam width, and to estimate the influence of this depolarization mechanism on the determination of RM. We argue that the depolarization canals indeed can be caused by beam depolarization, which in turn is a natural consequence when observing a turbulent medium with limited resolution. Furthermore, we estimate that beam depolarization can induce an additional error of about 20% in RM determinations, and considerably less in regions that are not affected by depolarization canals.

Key words: magnetohydrodynamics -- magnetic fields -- polarization -- turbulence -- ISM: magnetic fields -- radio continuum: ISM

Offprint request: M. Haverkorn, mhaverkorn@cfa.harvard.edu

© ESO 2004