Electric dipole radiation from spinning dust grains

B. T. Draine, A. Lazarian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

350 Scopus citations


We discuss the rotational excitation of small interstellar grains and the resulting electric dipole radiation from spinning dust. Attention is given to excitation and damping of grain rotation by collisions with neutrals, collisions with ions, "plasma drag," emission of infrared radiation, emission of electric dipole radiation, photoelectric emission, and formation of H2 on the grain surface. Electrostatic "focusing" can substantially enhance the rate of rotational excitation of grains colliding with ions. Under some conditions, "plasma drag" - due to interaction of the electric dipole moment of the grain with the electric field produced by passing ions - dominates both rotational damping and rotational excitation. Emissivities are estimated for dust in different phases of the interstellar medium, including diffuse H I clouds, warm H I, low-density photoionized gas, and cold molecular gas. Spinning dust grains could explain much, and perhaps all, of the 14-50 GHz background component recently observed by Kogut et al, de Oliveira-Costa et al., and Leitch et al. Future sensitive measurements of angular structure in the microwave sky brightness from the ground and from space should detect this emission from high-latitude H I clouds. It should be possible to detect rotational emission from small grains by ground-based pointed observations of molecular clouds, unless these grains are less abundant there than is currently believed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-179
Number of pages23
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART I
StatePublished - 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Atomic processes
  • Diffuse radiation
  • Dust, extinction
  • ISM: clouds
  • Plasmas
  • Radiation mechanisms: thermal


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