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Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Astronomy. Stockholm University, Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics (Nordita).
2014 (English)In: Astrophysical Journal, ISSN 0004-637X, E-ISSN 1538-4357, Vol. 786, no 2, 91- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Using one-dimensional models, we show that a helical magnetic field with an appropriate sign of helicity can compensate the Faraday depolarization resulting from the superposition of Faraday-rotated polarization planes from a spatially extended source. For radio emission from a helical magnetic field, the polarization as a function of the square of the wavelength becomes asymmetric with respect to zero. Mathematically speaking, the resulting emission occurs then either at observable or at unobservable (imaginary) wavelengths. We demonstrate that rotation measure (RM) synthesis allows for the reconstruction of the underlying Faraday dispersion function in the former case, but not in the latter. The presence of positive magnetic helicity can thus be detected by observing positive RM in highly polarized regions in the sky and negative RM in weakly polarized regions. Conversely, negative magnetic helicity can be detected by observing negative RM in highly polarized regions and positive RM in weakly polarized regions. The simultaneous presence of two magnetic constituents with opposite signs of helicity is shown to possess signatures that can be quantified through polarization peaks at specific wavelengths and the gradient of the phase of the Faraday dispersion function. Similar polarization peaks can tentatively also be identified for the bi-helical magnetic fields that are generated self-consistently by a dynamo from helically forced turbulence, even though the magnetic energy spectrum is then continuous. Finally, we discuss the possibility of detecting magnetic fields with helical and non-helical properties in external galaxies using the Square Kilometre Array.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 786, no 2, 91- p.
Keyword [en]
galaxies: magnetic fields, methods: data analysis, polarization
National Category
Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-105204DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/786/2/91ISI: 000335884500015OAI: diva2:732411
Swedish Research Council, 621-2011-5076EU, European Research Council, 227952Swedish Research Council, 2012-5797


Available from: 2014-07-04 Created: 2014-06-24 Last updated: 2014-07-04Bibliographically approved

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Brandenburg, Axel
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