EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 427, Number 2, November IV 2004
Page(s) 549 - 559
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:200400051

A&A 427, 549-559 (2004)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:200400051

Structure in the polarized Galactic synchrotron emission, in particular "depolarization canals"

M. Haverkorn1, P. Katgert2 and A. G. de Bruyn3, 4

1  Leiden Observatory, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
    e-mail: mhaverkorn@cfa.harvard.edu
2  Leiden Observatory, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
    e-mail: katgert@strw.leidenuniv.nl
3  ASTRON, PO Box 2, 7990 AA Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
    e-mail: ger@astron.nl
4  Kapteyn Institute, PO Box 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands

(Received 26 May 2003 / Accepted 22 July 2004 )

The polarized component of the diffuse radio synchrotron emission of our Galaxy shows structure, which is apparently unrelated to the structure in total intensity, on many scales. The structure in the polarized emission can be due to several processes or mechanisms. Some of those are related to the observational setup, such as beam depolarization - the vector combination and (partial) cancellation of polarization vectors within a synthesized beam -, or the insensitivity of a synthesis telescope to structure on large scales, also known as the "missing short spacings problem". Other causes for structure in the polarization maps are intrinsic to the radiative transfer of the emission in the warm ISM, which induces Faraday rotation and depolarization.

We use data obtained with the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope at 5 frequencies near 350 MHz to estimate the importance of the various mechanisms in producing structure in the linearly polarized emission. In the two regions studied here, which are both at positive latitudes in the second Galactic quadrant, the effect of "missing short spacings" is not important. The properties of the narrow depolarization "canals" that are observed in abundance lead us to conclude that they are mostly due to beam depolarization, and that they separate regions with different rotation measures. As beam depolarization only creates structure on the scale of the synthesized beam, most of the structure on larger scales must be due to depth depolarization. We do not discuss that aspect of the observations here, but in a companion paper we derive information about the properties of the ISM from the structure of the polarized emission.

Key words: magnetic fields -- polarization -- techniques: polarimetric -- ISM: magnetic fields -- ISM: structure -- radio continuum: ISM

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