Magnetic field-gas density relation and observational implications revisited

A. Tritsis, G. V. Panopoulou, T. Ch Mouschovias, K. Tassis, V. Pavlidou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We revisit the relation between magnetic-field strength (B) and gas density (ρ) for contracting interstellar clouds and fragments (or, cores), which is central in observationally determining the dynamical importance of magnetic fields in cloud evolution and star formation. Recently, it has been claimed that a relation B∝ρ2/3 is statistically preferred over B∝ρ1/2 in molecular clouds, when magnetic-field detections and non-detections from Zeeman observations are combined. This finding has unique observational implications on cloud and core geometry: the relation B∝ρ2/3 can only be realized under spherical contraction. However, no indication of spherical geometry can be found for the objects used in the original statistical analysis of the B-ρ relation. We trace the origin of the inconsistency to simplifying assumptions in the statistical model used to arrive at the B∝ρ2/3 conclusion and to an underestimate of observational uncertainties in the determination of cloud and core densities. We show that, when these restrictive assumptions are relaxed, B∝ρ1/2 is the preferred relation for the (selfgravitating) molecular-cloud data, as theoretically predicted four decades ago.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4384-4396
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 24 2015


  • Diffusion
  • ISM: clouds
  • ISM: magnetic fields
  • MHD
  • Methods: statistical
  • Stars: formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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