Disorientation of suprathermally rotating grains and the grain alignment problem

A. Lazarian, B. T. Draine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


We discuss the dynamics of dust grains subjected to torques arising from H2 formation. In particular, we discuss grain dynamics when a grain spins down and goes through a "crossover" event. As first pointed out by Spitzer & McGlynn, the grain angular momentum before and after a crossover event are correlated, and the degree of this correlation critically affects the alignment of dust grains by paramagnetic dissipation. We calculate the correlation including the important effects of thermal fluctuations within the grain material. These fluctuations limit the degree to which the grain angular momentum J is coupled with the grain principal axis a1 of maximal inertia. We show that this imperfect coupling of a1 with J plays a critical role during crossovers and can substantially increase the efficiency of paramagnetic alignment for grains larger than 0.1 μm. As a result, we show that for reasonable choices of parameters, the observed alignment of a ≳ 0.1 μm grains could be achieved by paramagnetic dissipation in suprathermally rotating grains, if radiative torques caused by starlight were not present. We also show that the efficiency of mechanical alignment in the limit of long alignment times is not altered by the thermal fluctuations in the grain material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-258
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART I
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Dust, extinction
  • ISM: Magnetic fields
  • Polarization


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