Magnetic field structures in star-forming regions: mid-infrared imaging polarimetry of K3-50

Peter Barnes, D. Li, C. Telesco, N. Tanakul, N. Mariñas, C. Wright, C. Packham, E. Pantin, P. Roche, J.H. Hough

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We report new imaging polarimetry observations of the Galactic compact H ii region K3-50 using CanariCam at the Gran Telescopio Canarias. We use a standard polarimetric analysis technique, first outlined by Aitken, to decompose the observed polarization images centred at 8.7, 10.3, and 12.5 μm into the emissive and absorptive components from silicate grains that are aligned with the local magnetic field. These components reveal the spatially resolved magnetic field structures across the mid-infrared emission area of K3-50. We examine these structures and show that they are consistent with previously observed features and physical models of K3-50, such as the molecular torus and the ionized outflow. We propose a 3D geometry for all the structures seen at different wavelengths. We also compute relevant physical quantities in order to estimate the associated magnetic field strengths that would be implied under various physical assumptions. We compare these results with magnetohydrodynamic simulations of protostar formation that predict the magnetic field strength and configuration. We find that the magnetic field may be dynamically important in the innermost 0.2 pc of the molecular torus, but that the torus is more likely to be rotationally supported against gravity outside this radius. Similarly, magnetic fields are unlikely to dominate the global physics of the ionized outflow, but they may be important in helping confine the flow near the cavity wall in some locations. Ours is the first application of the Aitken technique to spatially resolved magnetic field structures in multiple layers along the line of sight, effectively a method of ‘polarization tomography’
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2622-2636
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date2 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015


  • techniques: polarimetric, circumstellar matter, stars: formation, ISM: individual objects: K3-50, ISM: magnetic fields, infrared: ISM


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