Volume 530, June 2011
|Number of page(s)||10|
|Published online||16 May 2011|
Probing magnetic helicity with synchrotron radiation and Faraday rotation
Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 1, 85741 Garching, Germany
Received: 6 August 2010
Accepted: 1 February 2011
We present a first application of the recently proposed LITMUS test for magnetic helicity, as well as a thorough study of its applicability under different circumstances. In order to apply this test to the galactic magnetic field, the newly developed critical filter formalism is used to produce an all-sky map of the Faraday depth. The test does not detect helicity in the galactic magnetic field. To understand the significance of this finding, we made an applicability study, showing that a definite conclusion about the absence of magnetic helicity in the galactic field has not yet been reached. This study is conducted by applying the test to simulated observational data. We consider simulations in a flat sky approximation and all-sky simulations, both with assumptions of constant electron densities and realistic distributions of thermal and cosmic ray electrons. Our results suggest that the LITMUS test does indeed perform very well in cases where constant electron densities can be assumed, both in the flat-sky limit and in the galactic setting. Non-trivial distributions of thermal and cosmic ray electrons, however, may complicate the scenario to the point where helicity in the magnetic field can escape detection.
Key words: ISM: magnetic fields / galaxies: magnetic fields / methods: data analysis
© ESO, 2011
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