In The First Galaxies, Astrophysics and Space Science Library, Volume 396. ISBN 978-3-642-32361-4. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2013, p. 177.
http://arxiv.org/abs/1509.04522

For a PDF version of the article, click here.

MAGNETIC FIELDS IN SPIRAL GALAXIES

Rainer Beck


Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany


Abstract: Radio synchrotron emission, its polarization and Faraday rotation of the polarization angle are powerful tools to study the strength and structure of magnetic fields in galaxies. Unpolarized synchrotron emission traces isotropic turbulent fields which are strongest in spiral arms and bars (20−30 µG) and in central starburst regions (50−100 µG). Such fields are dynamically important; they affect gas flows and drive gas inflows in central regions. Polarized emission traces ordered fields, which can be regular or anisotropic turbulent, where the latter originates from isotropic turbulent fields by the action of compression or shear. The strongest ordered fields (10−15 µG) are generally found in interarm regions. In galaxies with strong density waves, ordered fields are also observed at the inner edges of spiral arms. Ordered fields with spiral patterns exist in grand-design, barred and flocculent galaxies, and in central regions. Ordered fields in interacting galaxies have asymmetric distributions and are a tracer of past interactions between galaxies or with the intergalactic medium.

Faraday rotation measures (RM) of the diffuse polarized radio emission from galaxy disks reveal large-scale spiral patterns that can be described by the superposition of azimuthal modes; these are signatures of regular fields generated by mean-field dynamos. “Magnetic arms” between gaseous spiral arms may also be products of dynamo action, but need a stable spiral pattern to develop. Helically twisted field loops winding around spiral arms were found in two galaxies so far. Large-scale field reversals, like the one found in the Milky Way, could not yet be detected in external galaxies. In radio halos around edge-on galaxies, ordered magnetic fields with X-shaped patterns are observed.

The origin and evolution of cosmic magnetic fields, in particular their first occurrence in young galaxies and their dynamical importance during galaxy evolution, will be studied with forthcoming radio telescopes like the Square Kilometre Array.


Keywords : polarization - magnetic fields - dynamo - galaxies: magnetic fields - galaxies: spiral - galaxies: halos - radio continuum: galaxies


Table of Contents

THE ROLE OF MAGNETIC FIELDS IN SPIRAL GALAXIES

ORIGIN OF GALACTIC MAGNETIC FIELDS

OBSERVATIONAL TOOLS
Basic magnetic field components
Optical, infrared and submm polarization
Zeeman effect
Total radio synchrotron emission and the equipartition assumption
Polarized radio synchrotron emission
Faraday rotation and Faraday Synthesis
Faraday depolarization

RESULTS
Magnetic field strengths
Magnetic energy densities
Cosmic-ray propagation
Relations between gas, star formation and magnetic fields
Spiral fields
Spiral pitch angles
Regular fields
Testing dynamo models
Magnetic arms
Helically twisted Parker loops
Large-scale field reversals
Barred galaxies
Magnetic halos
Rudimentary spirals: flocculent and irregular galaxies
Beyond spirals: interacting galaxies
Spiral galaxies with jets

HOW DOES THE MILKY WAY FIT INTO THE PICTURE OF NEARBY GALAXIES?

SUMMARY AND OPEN QUESTIONS

OUTLOOK

REFERENCES

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