Extragalactic zeeman detections in OH megamasers

Timothy Robishaw, Eliot Quataert, Carl Heiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


We have measured the Zeeman splitting of OH megamaser emission at 1667 MHz from five (ultra)luminous infrared galaxies ([U]LIRGs) using the 305 m Arecibo telescope and the 100 m Green Bank Telescope. Five of eight targeted galaxies show significant Zeeman splitting detections, with 14 individual masing components detected and line-of-sight magnetic field strengths ranging from ≃0.5 to 18 mG. The detected field strengths are similar to those measured in Galactic OH masers, suggesting that the local process of massive star formation occurs under similar conditions in (U)LIRGs and the Galaxy, in spite of the vastly different large-scale environments. Our measured field strengths are also similar to magnetic field strengths in (U)LIRGs inferred from synchrotron observations, implying that milligauss magnetic fields likely pervade most phases of the interstellar medium in (U)LIRGs. These results provide a promising new tool for probing the astrophysics of distant galaxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)981-998
Number of pages18
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 20 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: magnetic fields
  • ISM: magnetic fields
  • Magnetic fields
  • Masers
  • Polarization
  • Radio lines: galaxies


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