Nordita Astrophysics Seminars

Is there a left-handed magnetic field in the solar neighborhood?

by Andrea Bracco (Nordita & ENS Paris)

122:026, Nordita West

122:026, Nordita West

The full-sky Planck polarization data at 850um revealed unexpected properties of the E and B mode power spectra of dust emission in the interstellar medium (ISM). The positive cross-correlation between the total dust intensity, T, with the B modes has raised new questions about the physical mechanisms that affect dust polarization, such as the Galactic magnetic-field structure. This is key both to better understanding ISM dynamics and to accurately describing Galactic foregrounds to the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). In this theoretical paper we investigate the possibility that the observed cross-correlations in the dust polarization power spectra, and specifically between T and B, can be related to a parity-odd quantity in the ISM such as the magnetic helicity. We produce synthetic dust polarization data, derived from 3D analytical toy models of density structures and helical magnetic fields, to compare with the E and B modes of observations. Focusing on the observed T-B correlation, we propose a new line of interpretation of the Planck observations based on a large-scale helical component of the Galactic magnetic field in the solar neighborhood. Our analysis shows that: I) the sign of magnetic helicity does not affect E and B modes for isotropic magnetic-field configurations; II) helical magnetic fields threading interstellar filaments cannot reproduce the Planck results; III) a weak helical left-handed magnetic field structure in the solar neighborhood may explain the T-B correlation seen in the Planck data. This work suggests a new perspective for the interpretation of the dust polarization power spectra, which strongly supports the imprint of a large-scale structure of the Galactic magnetic field in the solar neighborhood.