AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 119 The Dirty Side of the ISM - Theory and Dust
Poster, Wednesday, 9:20am-6:30pm, January 11, 2006, Exhibit Hall

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[119.11] Optical Polarization From Aligned Atoms As A Diagnostic Of Interstellar And Circumstellar Magnetic Fields

H. Yan (CITA), A. Lazarian (U Wisonsin, Madison)

Population among sublevels of the ground state of an atom is affected by radiative transitions induced by anisotropic radiation flux. Such aligned atoms precess in the external magnetic field and this affects properties of polarized radiation arising from both scattering and absorption by atoms. As the result the degree of light polarization depends on the direction of the magnetic field. This provides a perspective tool for studies of astrophysical magnetic fields using optical and UV polarimetry. We discuss the process of alignment that can be used to study magnetic fields in interplanetary medium, interstellar medium, circumstellar regions and quasars. To exemplify what atomic alignment can provide to the observers we consider synthetic data obtained with MHD simulations of comet wake.

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