Volume 529, May 2011
|Number of page(s)||15|
|Published online||11 April 2011|
Magnetic fields in Local Group dwarf irregulars⋆
Obserwatorium Astronomiczne Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, ul. Orla 171, 30-244 Kraków, Poland
2 Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
3 Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universitätsstrasse 150, 44780 Bochum, Germany
Received: 14 July 2010
Accepted: 24 January 2011
Aims. We wish to clarify whether strong magnetic fields can be effectively generated in typically low-mass dwarf galaxies and to assess the role of dwarf galaxies in the magnetization of the Universe.
Methods. We performed a search for radio emission and magnetic fields in an unbiased sample of 12 Local Group (LG) irregular and dwarf irregular galaxies with the 100-m Effelsberg telescope at 2.64 GHz. Three galaxies were detected. A higher frequency (4.85 GHz) was used to search for polarized emission in five dwarfs that are the most luminous ones in the infrared domain, of which three were detected.
Results. Magnetic fields in LG dwarfs are weak, with a mean value of the total field strength of <4.2 ± 1.8 μG, three times lower than in the normal spirals. The strongest field among all LG dwarfs of 10 μG (at 2.64 GHz) is observed in the starburst dwarf IC 10. The production of total magnetic fields in dwarf systems appears to be regulated mainly by the star-formation surface density (with the power-law exponent of 0.30 ± 0.04) or by the gas surface density (with the exponent 0.47 ± 0.09). In addition, we find systematically stronger fields in objects of higher global star-formation rate. The dwarf galaxies follow a similar far-infrared relationship (with a slope of 0.91 ± 0.08) to that determined for high surface brightness spiral galaxies. The magnetic field strength in dwarf galaxies does not correlate with their maximum rotational velocity, indicating that a small-scale rather than a large-scale dynamo process is responsible for producting magnetic fields in dwarfs. If magnetization of the Universe by galactic outflows is coeval with its metal enrichment, we show that more massive objects (such as Lyman break galaxies) can efficiently magnetize the intergalactic medium with a magnetic field strength of about 0.8 nG out to a distance of 160–530 kpc at redshifts 5–3, respectively. Magnetic fields that are several times weaker and shorter magnetization distances are expected for primordial dwarf galaxies. We also predict that most star-forming local dwarfs might have magnetized their surroundings up to a field strength about 0.1 μG within about a 5 kpc distance.
Conclusions. Strong magnetic fields (>6 μG) are observed only in dwarfs of extreme characteristics (e.g. NGC 4449, NGC 1569, and the LG dwarf IC 10). They are all starbursts and more evolved objects of statistically much higher metallicity and global star-formation rate than the majority of the LG dwarf population. Typical LG dwarfs are unsuitable objects for the efficient supply of magnetic fields to the intergalactic medium.
Key words: galaxies: evolution / galaxies: magnetic fields / galaxies: dwarf / galaxies: irregular / Local Group / radio continuum: galaxies
© ESO, 2011
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