A&A 428, 479-495 (2004)
The polarization of mm methanol masersH. Wiesemeyer1, C. Thum1 and C. M. Walmsley2
1 Institut de Radio Astronomie Millimétrique, 300 rue de la Piscine, 38406 Saint Martin d'Hères, France
2 Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Largo E. Fermi 5, 50125 Firenze, Italy
(Received 26 February 2004 / Accepted 27 July 2004)
We present a survey of the polarization properties of mm-wavelength methanol masers, comprising both classes, and transitions from 84.5 to 157.0 GHz. Linear polarization is found in more than half of the observed objects, and circular polarization is tentatively detected in two sources. Class I and class II CH 3OH masers show similar polarization properties. The largest linear polarization is found in the 133 GHz class I maser towards L 379 (39.5%), and in the 157 GHz class II maser towards G 9.62+0.19 (36.7%). The spectral profiles of the polarization angle of class I masers are mostly flat, except for two sources showing a linear slope. Since the mm-line methanol masers are expected to be weakly (or not) saturated, we suggest that the stronger fractional polarizations found by us are enhanced by anisotropic pumping and radiative losses. In NGC 7538 , we find, for both maser classes, a good agreement between our polarization angles, and those measured for the submillimeter dust continuum. This can be taken as evidence for magnetic alignment of dust grains. It is also possible that an unsaturated maser with equally populated magnetic substates simply amplifies polarized continuum seed radiation. For class II masers, the polarization properties of the various velocity components towards a given source with detectable polarization are quite homogeneous. A possible explanation is discussed. Since methanol is non-paramagnetic, the circular polarization of the unsaturated maser emission can only be due to variations of the angle between the magnetic field and the line of sight along the maser propagation path.
Key words: masers -- polarization -- techniques: polarimetric -- surveys -- stars: formation -- ISM: magnetic fields
© ESO 2004