Volume 534, October 2011
|Number of page(s)||6|
|Section||Interstellar and circumstellar matter|
|Published online||22 September 2011|
Angle-dependent radiative grain alignment
Confirmation of a magnetic field – radiation anisotropy angle dependence on the efficiency of interstellar grain alignment
USRA/SOFIA Science Center, NASA Ames Research Center, Mail Stop N211-3, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA
2 Instituto Superior de Corellación Geológica, CONICET, Miguel Lillo 205, 4000 San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina
3 South African Astronomical Observatory, PO Box 9, Observatory, 7935 Cape Town, South Africa
4 Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy, Vilnius University, Goštauto 12, 01108 Vilnius, Lithuania
Received: 9 July 2011
Accepted: 24 August 2011
Context. Interstellar grain alignment studies are currently experiencing a renaissance due to the development of a new quantitative theory based on radiative alignment torques (RAT). One of the distinguishing predictions of this theory is a dependence of the grain alignment efficiency on the relative angle (Ψ) between the magnetic field and the anisotropy direction of the radiation field. In an earlier study we found observational evidence for such an effect from observations of the polarization around the star HD 97300 in the Chamaeleon I cloud. However, due to the large uncertainties in the measured visual extinctions, the result was uncertain.
Aims. By acquiring explicit spectral classification of the polarization targets, we have sought to perform a more precise reanalysis of the existing polarimetry data.
Methods. We have obtained new spectral types for the stars in our for our polarization sample, which we combine with photometric data from the literature to derive accurate visual extinctions for our sample of background field stars. This allows a high accuracy test of the grain alignment efficiency as a function of Ψ.
Results. We confirm and improve the measured accuracy of the variability of the grain alignment efficiency with Ψ, seen in the earlier study. We note that the grain temperature (heating) also shows a dependence on Ψ which we interpret as a natural effect of the projection of the grain surface to the illuminating radiation source. This dependence also allows us to derive an estimate of the fraction of aligned grains in the cloud.
Key words: polarization / dust, extinction / ISM: magnetic fields
© ESO, 2011
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