Volume 616, August 2018
|Number of page(s)||12|
|Section||Interstellar and circumstellar matter|
|Published online||14 August 2018|
Local measurements of the mean interstellar polarization at high Galactic latitudes
Department of Physics and Institute for Theoretical and Computational Physics, University of Crete,
2 Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas, IESL, Voutes, 7110 Heraklion, Greece
3 Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, California Institute of Technology, 1200 E California Blvd, MC 249-17, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
4 Astronomical Institute, St. Petersburg State University, Universitetsky pr. 28, Petrodvoretz, 198504 St. Petersburg, Russia
5 KIPAC, Stanford University, 452 Lomita Mall, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
Accepted: 20 June 2018
Very little information exists concerning the properties of the interstellar medium (ISM)-induced starlight polarization at high Galactic latitudes. Future optopolarimetric surveys promise to fill this gap. We conduct a small-scale pathfinding survey designed to identify the average polarization properties of the diffuse ISM locally, at regions with the lowest dust content. We perform deep optopolarimetric surveys within three ~15′× 15′ regions located at b > 48° using the RoboPol polarimeter. The observed samples of stars are photometrically complete to ~16 mag in the R-band. The selected regions exhibit low total reddening compared to the majority of high-latitude sightlines. We measure the level of systematic uncertainty for all observing epochs and find it to be 0.1% in fractional linear polarization, p. The majority of individual stellar measurements have low signal-to-noise ratios. However, our survey strategy enables us to locate the mean fractional linear polarization pmean in each of the three regions. The region with lowest dust content yields pmean = (0.054 ± 0.038)%, not significantly different from zero. We find significant detections for the remaining two regions of: pmean = (0.113 ± 0.036)% and pmean = (0.208 ± 0.044)%. Using a Bayesian approach, we provide upper limits on the intrinsic spread of the small-scale distributions of q and u. At the detected pmean levels, the determination of the systematic uncertainty is critical for the reliability of the measurements. We verify the significance of our detections with statistical tests, accounting for all sources of uncertainty. Using publicly available HI emission data, we identify the velocity components that most likely account for the observed pmean and find their morphologies to be misaligned with the orientation of the mean polarization at a spatial resolution of 10′. We find indications that the standard upper envelope of p with reddening underestimates the maximum p at very low E(B–V) (≤0.01 mag).
Key words: dust, extinction / techniques: polarimetric / ISM: magnetic fields / polarization
© ESO 2018
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