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Title: Paramagnetic alignment of small grains: A novel method for measuring interstellar magnetic fields

We present a novel method to measure the strength of interstellar magnetic fields using ultraviolet (UV) polarization of starlight that is in part produced by weakly aligned, small dust grains. We begin with calculating the degrees of the paramagnetic alignment of small (size a ∼ 0.01 μm) and very small (a ∼ 0.001 μm) grains in the interstellar magnetic field due to the Davis-Greenstein relaxation and resonance relaxation. To calculate the degrees of paramagnetic alignment, we use Langevin equations and take into account various interaction processes essential for the rotational dynamics of small grains. We find that the alignment of small grains is necessary to reproduce the observed polarization in the UV, although the polarization arising from these small grains is negligible at the optical and infrared (IR) wavelengths. Based on fitting theoretical models to observed extinction and polarization curves, we find that the best-fit model for the case with the peak wavelength of polarization λ{sub max} < 0.55 μm requires a higher degree of alignment of small grains than for the typical case with λ{sub max} = 0.55 μm. We interpret the correlation between the systematic increase of the UV polarization relative to maximum polarization (i.e., of p(6 μm{supmore » –1})/p{sub max}) with λ{sub max}{sup −1} for cases of low λ{sub max} by appealing to the higher degree of alignment of small grains. We utilize the correlation of the paramagnetic alignment of small grains with the magnetic field strength B to suggest a new way to measure B using the observable parameters λ{sub max} and p(6 μm{sup –1})/p{sub max}.« less
Authors:
;  [1] ;  [2]
  1. Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Toronto, 60 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3H8 (Canada)
  2. Department of Astronomy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22365635
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 790; Journal Issue: 1; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; CORRELATIONS; DUSTS; INTERACTIONS; INTERSTELLAR MAGNETIC FIELDS; LANGEVIN EQUATION; PARAMAGNETISM; POLARIZATION; RELAXATION; ULTRAVIOLET RADIATION; WAVELENGTHS