Volume 638, June 2020
|Number of page(s)||5|
|Section||Letters to the Editor|
|Published online||15 June 2020|
Letter to the Editor
Collisional polarization of molecular ions: a signpost of ambipolar diffusion
Department of Space, Earth and Environment, Chalmers University of Technology, Onsala Space Observatory, 439 92 Onsala, Sweden
Accepted: 20 May 2020
Magnetic fields play a role in the dynamics of many astrophysical processes, but they are hard to detect. In a partially ionized plasma, a magnetic field works directly on the ionized medium but not on the neutral medium, which gives rise to a velocity drift between them: ambipolar diffusion. This process is suggested to be important in the process of star formation, but has never been directly observed. We introduce a method that could be used to detect ambipolar diffusion and the magnetic field that gives rise to it, where we exploit the velocity drift between the charged and neutral medium. By using a representative classical model of the collision dynamics, we show that molecular ions partially align themselves when a velocity drift is present between the molecular ion and its main collision partner H2. We demonstrate that ambipolar diffusion potently aligns molecular ions in regions denser than their critical density. We include a model for HCO+ and show that collisional polarization could be detectable for the ambipolar drifts predicted by numerical simulations of the inner protostellar disk regions. The polarization vectors are aligned perpendicular to the magnetic field direction projected on the plane of the sky.
Key words: magnetic fields / stars: pre-main sequence / stars: magnetic field / polarization
© ESO 2020
Current usage metrics show cumulative count of Article Views (full-text article views including HTML views, PDF and ePub downloads, according to the available data) and Abstracts Views on Vision4Press platform.
Data correspond to usage on the plateform after 2015. The current usage metrics is available 48-96 hours after online publication and is updated daily on week days.
Initial download of the metrics may take a while.