Polarization disks in near-infrared high-resolution imaging
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie,Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
Accepted: 29 April 2010
A polarization disk is a characteristic feature of optical and near-infrared (NIR) polarimetric images of young stellar objects (YSOs) and is regarded as convincing evidence that a dust disk is present. We analyze high-resolution linear polarization maps of a sample of low-mass YSO disk models by means of radiative transfer calculations to investigate the effects of the disk geometry and grain sizes on polarization properties. Our modeling assumes spherical grains with a power-law size distribution of n(a) a-3.5; 0.005 μm ≤ a ≤ and with a fixed of 0.25 μm for the outer envelope and a different for the disk. The parameters to examine are the disk height (i.e. the ratio of the disk height to the outer disk radius H of 0.1 to 1.0) and the dust sizes in the disk (i.e. of 0.25 to 1000.0 μm). In a near pole-on view, the polarization vectors are centro-symmetrically aligned even towards the disk, but the degree of polarization can be different from the envelope. We predict that the pole-on disk can be distinguished from the envelope. In contrast, the model images show a bipolar nebulosity and a polarization disk with a vector alignment in edge-on view. The polarization is low (<10%) for large grains or low H values and high (up to ~80%) for small grains and high H values. In contrast, comparably constant polarizations (20–40%) are obtained in the optical. The wavelength dependence in low NIR polarization cases is often detected in many T Tauri stars, suggesting that grain growth or an advanced disk accretion is expected in these objects. The opposite trend in high NIR polarization cases, which is found in some low-mass protostars, is reproduced with spherical grain models. To understand our results, we developed a generalized scattering model, which is an extension of the vector alignment mechanism. In the low-mass star disk case, multiple-scattered light behaves as if it chooses paths of comparably low optical density region (e.g. the disk surface), avoiding a high density, equatorial region, which we call the roundabout effect. The single-scattered light does not reach the observer, and the double-scattered light contributes the most flux. However, the effect of the first scattering still appears in the final polarization status. The higher the disk height in our models, the closer to the scattering angle on the disk surface, resulting in a higher polarization. The variety of the wavelength dependence on the polarization is also an example of the roundabout effect. In the optical, only stray light passed through the envelope reaches the observer. Thus, the optical polarization is characterized by scattering by small grains in the envelope. On the other hand, since the NIR photons can pass through a somewhat inner part of the disk, the NIR polarization can still offer information on the dust and geometry of the disk. We expect that a polarization disk analysis in high-resolution data, such as the one we present, offers opportunities to investigate the grain growth and dust settling in YSOs, and our new scattering model is also fundamental for nonspherical grain models.
Key words: circumstellar matter / dust, extinction
© ESO, 2010