Volume 411, Number 2, November IV 2003
|Page(s)||99 - 107|
|Section||Interstellar and circumstellar matter|
|Published online||17 November 2003|
Systematic bias in interstellar magnetic field estimates
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
2 School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
3 Department of Physics, Moscow State University, 119992 Moscow, Russia
Corresponding author: R. Beck, firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 30 June 2003
Faraday rotation of the polarization plane in magnetized thermal plasma provides one of the most efficient methods to deduce regular magnetic fields from radio astronomical observations. Since the Faraday rotation measure is proportional to an integral, along the line of sight, of magnetic field weighted with thermal electron density, is believed to yield the regular magnetic field averaged over large volume. Here we show that this is not the case in a turbulent medium where fluctuations in magnetic field and electron density are not statistically independent, and so contribute to . For example, in the case of pressure equilibrium, magnetic field can be anticorrelated with plasma density to produce a negative contribution. As a result, the strength of the regular magnetic field obtained from can be underestimated if the fluctuations in electron density and magnetic field are neglected. The anticorrelation also reduces the standard deviation of . We further discuss the effect of the positive correlations where the standard treatment of leads to an overestimated magnetic field. Because of the anisotropy of the turbulent magnetic field, the regular magnetic fields strength, obtained from synchrotron emission using standard formulae, can be overestimated. A positive correlation between cosmic-ray number density and magnetic field leads to an overestimate of the strengths of the regular and total fields. These effects can explain the difference between the strengths of the regular Galactic magnetic field as indicated by and synchrotron emissivity data and reconcile the magnetic field strength in the Solar vicinity with typical strength of regular magnetic fields in external galaxies.
Key words: magnetic fields / polarization / turbulence / ISM : magnetic fields / galaxies: ISM
© ESO, 2003
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