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Polarimetry toward the IRAS Vela shell. II. extinction and magnetic fields

Grant number: 07/05396-9
Support type:Regular Research Grants - Publications - Scientific article
Duration: September 01, 2007 - February 29, 2008
Field of knowledge:Physical Sciences and Mathematics - Astronomy - Astrophysics of the Interstellar Medium
Principal Investigator:Antônio Mário Magalhães
Grantee:Antônio Mário Magalhães
Home Institution: Instituto de Astronomia, Geofísica e Ciências Atmosféricas (IAG). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil

Abstract

We explore correlations between visual extinction and polarization along the western side of the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) Vela Shell using a published polarimetric catalog of several hundred objects. Our extinction maps along this ionization front (I-front) find evidence of clumpy structure with typical masses between 1.5 and 6 Msolar and a mean length scale L~0.47 pc. The polarimetric data allowed us to investigate the distribution of the local magnetic field in small (~parsec) scales across the I-front. Using the dispersion of polarization position angles, we find variations in the kinetic-to-magnetic energy density ratio of at least 1 order of magnitude along the I-front, with the magnetic pressure generally dominating over the turbulent motions. These findings suggest that the magnetic component makes a significant contribution to the dynamical balance of this region. Along the I-front, the mean magnetic field projected on the sky is 0.018+/-0.013 mG. The polarization efficiency seems to change along the I-front. We attribute high polarization efficiencies in regions of relatively low extinction to an optimum degree of grain alignment. Analysis of the mass-to-magnetic flux ratio shows that this quantity is consistent with the subcritical regime (lambda < 1), showing that magnetic support is indeed important in the region. Our data extend the overall lambda-N(H2) relation toward lower density values and show that such a trend continues smoothly toward low N(H2) values. This provides general support for the evolution of initially subcritical clouds to an eventual supercritical stage. (AU)