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Structures in the rotation measure sky

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Rodion Stepanov, Professor Anvar Shukurov, Professor Dmitry Sokoloff


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Coherent structures in the distribution of the Faraday rotation measure (RM) of extragalactic radio sources are isolated using wavelet transformation techniques. A new algorithm of wavelet analysis for data points non-uniformly distributed on a sphere is developed and implemented. Signatures of the magnetic fields in the local (Orion) arm, the Sagittarius arm (and its extension, the Carina arm), the synchrotron Loop I and, possibly, the Perseus arm have been revealed using the RM catalogues of Simard-Normandin et al. (551 sources) and Broten et al. (663 sources). Unlike earlier analyses of the RM sky, our approach has allowed us to assess the stability of the results with respect to modifications of the data sample. Only the aforementioned features remain stable under mild sample modifications. We consider separately low-latitude sources at |b| < 10° and, using the model of electron density distribution of Cordes et al., we estimate magnetic field strength by comparing the model wavelet transform with that of the real data. Independent estimates of the mean magnetic field strength in the Orion arm using low- and high-latitude sources converge to 1.4 ± 0.3 μG. Rotation measures of low-latitude sources provide a clear indication of a magnetic field reversal at a distance 0.6-1 kpc towards the Galactic Centre. Our analysis has revealed for the first time the extension of the reversal in the Carina arm. Low-latitude sources from the catalogue of Broten et al. indicate a magneto-ionic structure in the direction of the Perseus arm with the magnetic field direction reversed with respect to that in the Orion arm. The extent of the region with reversed magnetic field near the Sun is 3 kpc or more in the azimuthal direction. The average pitch angle of magnetic field in the nearby spiral arms is 15°, and the mean field strength in the Sagittarius-Carina and Perseus arms is 1.7 ± 0.3 μG and 1.4 ± 1.2 μG, respectively. The line-of-sight magnetic field in Loop I is estimated as 0.9 ± 0.3 μG. We find firm evidence of a dominant even symmetry of the local mean magnetic field with respect to the Galactic equator. Our results are compatible with a moderate large-scale north-south asymmetry, with the magnetic field in the southern hemisphere being stronger in a region of at least 3 kpc in size. It cannot be excluded, however, that the asymmetry is local and results from vertical bending of magnetic lines in a region of about 400 pc in size, with the Sun being located close to the top of a magnetic loop, the magnetic field of which is 0.5 μG stronger than the average field.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Frick P, Stepanov R, Shukurov A, Sokoloff D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Year: 2001

Volume: 325

Issue: 2

Pages: 649-664

ISSN (print): 0035-8711

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2966

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing


DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-8711.2001.04462.x


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