Interstellar dust grains are often aligned. If the grain alignment direction varies along the line of sight, the thermal emission becomes circularly polarized. In the diffuse interstellar medium, the circular polarization at far-infrared and submillimeter wavelengths is predicted to be very small, and probably unmeasurable. However, circular polarization may reach detectable levels in photodissociation regions viewed through molecular clouds, in infrared dark clouds, and in protoplanetary disks. Measurement of circular polarization could help constrain the structure of the magnetic field in infrared dark clouds, and may shed light on the mechanisms responsible for grain alignment in protoplanetary disks.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science