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Astron. Astrophys. 324, 1115-1122

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Polarization models of filamentary molecular clouds

Per Carlqvist1 and Helmuth Kristen2

1Alfvén Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, S-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden
2Stockholm Observatory, S-133 36 Saltsjöbaden, Sweden

Received 8 March 1996 / Accepted 19 November 1996


We study numerically the linear polarization and extinction of light from background stars in three types of models of elongated molecular clouds by following the development of the Stokes parameters. The clouds are assumed to be of cylindrical shape and penetrated by a helical magnetic field B. In the first two models we study only the relative magnitude of the polarization assuming that the polarization is proportional to B µ, where primarily µ = 2. Provided there is no background/foreground polarization present we find from the cylindrically symmetric Model I that the angle of polarization has a bimodal character with the polarization being either parallel with or perpendicular to the axis of the filament. For some magnetic-field geometries both angles may exist in one and the same filament. It is concluded that it is not a straightforward task to find the magnetic-field-line pattern from the polarization pattern. If a background/foreground polarization exists or, as in Model II, the filament is not cylindrically symmetric, the bimodal character of the angle of polarization is lost. By means of Model III we have, using semi-empirical methods based on the Davis-Greenstein mechanism, estimated the absolute degree of polarization in the filamentary molecular cloud L204. It is found that the polarization produced by the model is much less than the polarization observed. We therefore conclude that most of the polarization measured in the L204 cloud is not produced in the cloud itself but is constituted by a large-scale background/foreground polarization.

Key words: ISM: clouds - ISM: general - ISM: individual objects: L204 - ISM: magnetic fields - physical data and processes: polarization

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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997