Following the interstellar magnetic field from the heliosphere into space with polarized starlight

P. C. Frisch, A. B. Berdyugin, V. Piirola, A. M. Magalhaes, D. B. Seriacopi, T. Ferrari, F. P. Santos, N. A. Schwadron, H. O. Funsten, D. J. McComas, C. E. Heiles

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Starlight linearly polarized by aligned interstellar dust grains provides the necessary data for tracing the structure of the very local interstellar magnetic field (ISMF). Two methods have been developed to recover the ISMF direction from polarized starlight, using data from an ongoing polarization survey. Both methods rely on the probability distribution function for polarized light. Method 1 calculates the ISMF direction from polarization position angles regardless of the data accuracy, while Method 2 relies on high-probability data points. The ISMF direction Bibex recovered by Method 1 corresponds to the closest ISMF to the heliosphere, traced by the center of the IBEX Ribbon arc. Method 2 reveals a new direction for the more distant ISMF, B new, toward l=41.1° ± 4.1° and b= 25.8° ± 3.0°, which differs by 30.4° ± 5.6° from the IBEX ISMF direction. Polarizations of filament stars that are located within 25° of a pole of Bnew, where background polarizations would be minimal, show the highest statistical probabilities of tracing the filament ISMF. The IBEX ISMF direction orders the kinematics of interstellar clouds within 15 pc, and B new must therefore dominate beyond 15 pc. These new data are consistent with the location of the Sun in the rim of an expanding superbubble shell associated with the evolved Loop I superbubble.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number012010
JournalJournal of Physics: Conference Series
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 22 2016
Event15th Annual International Astrophysics Conference: The Science of Ed Stone: Celebrating his 80th Birthday, AIAC 2016 - Cape Coral, United States
Duration: Apr 4 2016Apr 8 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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