Place: 4421 Sterling Hall, Coffee and Cookies at 3:30 PM, Talk Begins 3:45 PM
Speaker: Laura Fissel, NRAO
Abstract: Whether magnetic fields influence the formation and evolution of molecular clouds remains a key open question in our understanding of the star formation process. Maps of polarized thermal dust emission can be used to create “portraits” of magnetic field morphology, yet observing through the Earth’s atmosphere has long restricted polarimeters to map small areas or extremely bright clouds. In this talk I will discuss results from a survey of the young giant molecular cloud Vela C with the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Sub-mm Telescope for Polarimetry (BLASTPol). Operating from the upper stratosphere above 99.5% of the atmosphere BLASTPol created the most detailed magnetic field map ever made of a giant molecular cloud. By applying the same statistical analysis techniques to both our Vela C data and synthetic observations of MHD cloud formation models we find that the magnetic field of Vela C is likely significantly inclined with respect to the plane-of-the-sky. Comparisons between magnetic field orientation traced by BLASTPol and elongation of column density and molecular line map structures also indicate that the large-scale magnetic field of Vela C is strong enough to influence the cloud gas dynamics. With a new generation polarimeters (e.g. BLAST-TNG, TolTEC) we will soon be able to apply the same analysis techniques to dozens of clouds at even higher resolution, providing important constraints on the role of magnetic fields in star and planet formation.