Magnetic Field Measurement with Ground State Alignment

Type Conference Paper
Names Huirong Yan, A. Lazarian
Conference Name Astrophysics and Space Science Library
Volume 407
Pages 89
Date 2015
DOI 10.1007/978-3-662-44625-6_5
Library Catalog
Abstract Observational studies of magnetic fields are crucial. We introduce a process "ground state alignment" as a new way to determine the magnetic field direction in diffuse medium. The alignment is due to anisotropic radiation impinging on the atom/ion. The consequence of the process is the polarization of spectral lines resulting from scattering and absorption from aligned atomic/ionic species with fine or hyperfine structure. The magnetic field induces precession and realign the atom/ion and therefore the polarization of the emitted or absorbed radiation reflects the direction of the magnetic field. The atoms get aligned at their low levels and, as the life-time of the atoms/ions we deal with is long, the alignment induced by anisotropic radiation is susceptible to extremely weak magnetic fields ( 1 G gtrsim B gtrsim 10^{-15} G). In fact, the effects of atomic/ionic alignment were studied in the laboratory decades ago, mostly in relation to the maser research. Recently, the atomic effect has been already detected in observations from circumstellar medium and this is a harbinger of future extensive magnetic field studies. A unique feature of the atomic realignment is that they can reveal the 3D orientation of magnetic field. In this chapter, we shall review the basic physical processes involved in atomic realignment. We shall also discuss its applications to interplanetary, circumstellar and interstellar magnetic fields. In addition, our research reveals that the polarization of the radiation arising from the transitions between fine and hyperfine states of the ground level can provide a unique diagnostics of magnetic fields in the Epoch of Reionization.
Tags Physics
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