Journal Article

Radiative torque alignment: essential physical processes

Thiem Hoang and A. Lazarian

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 388, issue 1, pages 117-143
Published in print July 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Radiative torque alignment: essential physical processes

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We study the physical processes that affect the alignment of grains subject to radiative torques (RATs). To describe the action of RATs, we use the analytical model (AMO) of RATs introduced in our previous paper. We focus our discussion on the alignment by anisotropic radiation flux with respect to the magnetic field, which defines the axis of grain Larmor precession. Such an alignment does not invoke paramagnetic dissipation (i.e. the Davis–Greenstein mechanism), but, nevertheless, grains tend to be aligned with long axes perpendicular to the magnetic field. When we account for thermal fluctuations within grains, we show that for grains that are characterized by a triaxial ellipsoid of inertia, the zero-J attractor point obtained in our earlier study develops into a low-J attractor point. The value of angular momentum at the low-J attractor point is of the order of the thermal angular momentum corresponding to the grain temperature. We show that, for situations when the direction of radiative flux is nearly perpendicular to a magnetic field, the alignment of grains with long axes parallel to the magnetic field (i.e. ‘wrong alignment’) reported in our previous paper, disappears in the presence of thermal fluctuations. Thus, all grains are aligned with their long axes perpendicular to the magnetic field. We study the effects of stochastic gaseous bombardment and show that gaseous bombardment can drive grains from low-J to high-J attractor points in cases when high-J attractor points are present. As the alignment of grain axes with respect to angular momentum is higher for higher values of J, counter-intuitively, gaseous bombardment can increase the degree of grain alignment with respect to the magnetic field. We also study the effects of torques induced by H2 formation and show that they can change the value of angular momentum at high-J attractor points, but marginally affect the value of angular momentum at low-J attractor points. We compare the AMO results with those obtained using the direct numerical calculations of RATs acting upon irregular grains and we validate the use of the AMO for realistic situations of RAT alignment.

Keywords: polarization; dust, extinction; ISM: magnetic fields

Journal Article.  18082 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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