Polarized emission observed by Planck HFI at 353 GHz towards a sample of nearby fields is presented, focusing on the statistics of polarization fractions p and angles ψ. The polarization fractions and column densities in these nearby fields are representative of the range of values obtained over the whole sky. We find that: (i) the largest polarization fractions are reached in the most diffuse fields; (ii) the maximum polarization fraction pmax decreases with column density NH in the more opaque fields with NH> 1021 cm-2; and (iii) the polarization fraction along a given line of sight is correlated with the local spatial coherence of the polarization angle. These observations are compared to polarized emission maps computed in simulations of anisotropic magnetohydrodynamical turbulence in which we assume a uniform intrinsic polarization fraction of the dust grains. We find that an estimate of this parameter may be recovered from the maximum polarization fraction pmax in diffuse regions where the magnetic field is ordered on large scales and perpendicular to the line of sight. This emphasizes the impact of anisotropies of the magnetic field on the emerging polarization signal. The decrease of the maximum polarization fraction with column density in nearby molecular clouds is well reproduced in the simulations, indicating that it is essentially due to the turbulent structure of the magnetic field: an accumulation of variously polarized structures along the line of sight leads to such an anti-correlation. In the simulations, polarization fractions are also found to anti-correlate with the angle dispersion function S. However, the dispersion of the polarization angle for a given polarization fraction is found to be larger in the simulations than in the observations, suggesting a shortcoming in the physical content of these numerical models. In summary, we find that the turbulent structure of the magnetic field is able to reproduce the main statistical properties of the dust polarization as observed in a variety of nearby clouds, dense cores excluded, and that the large-scale field orientation with respect to the line of sight plays a major role in the quantitative analysis of these statistical properties.
Astronomy and Astrophysics, 2015, Vol 576
Infrared: ISM; ISM: general; ISM: magnetic fields; Submillimeter: ISM; Dust; ISM: Magnetic fields; Dust , extinction; ISM : clouds; Methods: Observational; Methods: numerical; Methods: statistical