Is there a left-handed magnetic field in the solar neighborhood? Exploring helical magnetic fields in the interstellar medium through dust polarization power spectra

A. Bracco, S. Candelaresi, F. Del Sordo, A. Brandenburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
95 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Context. The analysis of the full-sky Planck polarization data at 850 μm revealed unexpected properties of the E- and B-mode power spectra of dust emission in the interstellar medium (ISM). The positive cross-correlations over a wide range of angular scales between the total dust intensity, T, and both E and (most of all) B modes has raised new questions about the physical mechanisms that affect dust polarization, such as the Galactic magnetic field structure. This is key both to better understanding ISM dynamics and to accurately describing Galactic foregrounds to the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). In particular, in the quest to find primordial B modes of the CMB, the observed positive cross-correlation between T and B for interstellar dust requires further investigation towards parity-violating processes in the ISM. Aims. In this theoretical paper we investigate the possibility that the observed cross-correlations in the dust polarization power spectra, and specifically the one between T and B, can be related to a parity-odd quantity in the ISM such as the magnetic helicity. Methods. We produce synthetic dust polarization data, derived from 3D analytical toy models of density structures and helical magnetic fields, to compare with the E and B modes of observations. We present several models. The first is an ideal fully helical isotropic case, such as the Arnold-Beltrami-Childress field. Second, following the nowadays favored interpretation of the T-E signal in terms of the observed alignment between the magnetic field morphology and the filamentary density structure of the diffuse ISM, we design models for helical magnetic fields wrapped around cylindrical interstellar filaments. Lastly, focusing on the observed T-B correlation, we propose a new line of interpretation of the Planck observations advocating the presence of a large-scale helical component of the Galactic magnetic field in the solar neighborhood. Results. Our analysis shows that: I) the sign of magnetic helicity does not affect E and B modes for isotropic magnetic-field configurations; II) helical magnetic fields threading interstellar filaments cannot reproduce the Planck results; and III) a weak helical left-handed magnetic field structure in the solar neighborhood may explain the T-B correlation seen in the Planck data. Such a magnetic-field configuration would also account for the observed large-scale T-E correlation. Conclusions. This work suggests a new perspective for the interpretation of the dust polarization power spectra that supports the imprint of a large-scale structure of the Galactic magnetic field in the solar neighborhood.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA97
Number of pages11
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Volume621
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2019

Keywords

  • Cosmic background radiation
  • Dust
  • Extinction
  • ISM: Magnetic fields
  • ISM: Structure
  • Local insterstellar matter

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Is there a left-handed magnetic field in the solar neighborhood? Exploring helical magnetic fields in the interstellar medium through dust polarization power spectra'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this