The far-infrared polarization spectrum of Rho Ophiuchi A from HAWC+/SOFIA observations

Fabio Santos

Poster -- Molecular clouds and filaments, Star-forming regions

In this work, we present results from the HAWC+ far-infrared polarimeter that operates on the SOFIA airborne observatory. The densest portions of the Rho Ophiuchi molecular complex, known as Rho Oph A, have been mapped using HAWC+ bands C (89 microns) and D (155 microns). Rho Oph A is a well known nearby star forming region. At the target's distance of approximately 130 pc, our observations provide excellent spatial resolution (~5 mpc in band C). The magnetic field map suggests a compressed and distorted field morphology around Oph S1, a massive B3 star that is the main heat source of Rho Oph A. We compute the ratio p(D)/p(C), where p(C) and p(D) are the polarization degree maps at bands C and D, respectively. This ratio estimates the slope of the polarization spectrum in the far-infrared. Although the slope is predicted to be positive by dust grain models, previous observations of other molecular clouds have revealed that negative slopes are common. In Rho Oph A, we find that there is a smooth gradient of p(D)/p(C) across the mapped field. The change in p(D)/p(C) is well correlated with the molecular hydrogen column density and dust temperature accross the cloud. A positive slope dominates the lower density and well illuminated portions of the cloud, whereas a transition to a negative slope is observed at the denser and less evenly illuminated cloud core. We propose a simple model to explain the positive to negative slope transition, and interpret the effect as being consistent with the radiative torques (RATs) grain alignment theory. For the sight lines of higher column density, polarized emission from the warmer outer cloud layers is added to emission from the colder inner well-shielded layers lying along the same line-of-sight. Given that the outer layers receive more radiation from Oph S1, their grain alignment efficiency is expected to be higher according to RATs. The combination of warmer, well aligned grains with cooler, poorly aligned grains is what causes the negative slope. This effect is not present in the sight lines of lower column density, due to the much lower extinction.

Background image: Robert Hurt, IPAC