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Magnetic Fields and Ionized Gas in the Inner Galaxy: An Outer Scale for Turbulence and the Possible Role of H II Regions

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 17:00 authored by Haverkorn, M, Gaensler, BM, McClure-Griffiths, NM, John DickeyJohn Dickey, Green, AJ
We present an analysis of rotation measure (RM) fluctuations from the test region of the Southern Galactic Plane Survey (SGPS), along with emission measure (EM) fluctuations in the same field taken from the Southern Hα Sky Survey Atlas. The structure function of RM fluctuations shows a relatively steep slope at small scales (1′-5′), a break in slope to a flatter structure function at intermediate scales (5′-60′), and a systematic variation of the strength of fluctuations as a function of position angle on the sky at the largest scales (60′-200′)- The structure function of EM fluctuations shows similar behavior, although the lower resolution of the data prevents detection of a possible break in the spectrum. We interpret the anisotropy in RM/EM structure on large scales as resulting from a large-scale gradient in electron density (and possibly magnetic field) across the region. The break in the slope of the RM structure function at scales of ∼5′ can be explained by contributions from two spatially distinct magnetoionized screens, most likely in the Local and Carina spiral arms. The observed structure function then implies that the outer scale of RM fluctuations in these screens is ∼2 pc. Such behavior is in striking contrast to the expectation that interstellar turbulence forms an unbroken spectrum from kiloparsec down to AU scales. We conclude that we have identified an additional source of enhanced turbulence, injected on scales of a few pc, possibly seen only in the Galactic plane. The most likely source of such turbulence is individual H II regions from relatively low mass stars, whose characteristic scale size is similar to the outer scale of turbulence inferred here. These sources may be the dominant source of density and velocity fluctuations in warm ionized gas in the Galactic plane.


Publication title

The Astrophysical Journal








School of Natural Sciences


University of Chicago Press

Place of publication

Chicago, USA

Repository Status

  • Restricted

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