Magnetization of cloud cores and envelopes and other observational consequences of reconnection diffusion

A. Lazarian, A. Esquivel, R. Crutcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent observational results for magnetic fields in molecular clouds reviewed by Crutcher seem to be inconsistent with the predictions of the ambipolar diffusion theory of star formation. These include the measured decrease in mass to flux ratio between envelopes and cores, the failure to detect any self-gravitating magnetically subcritical clouds, the determination of the flat probability distribution function (PDF) of the total magnetic field strengths implying that there are many clouds with very weak magnetic fields, and the observed scaling Bρ2/3 that implies gravitational contraction with weak magnetic fields. We consider the problem of magnetic field evolution in turbulent molecular clouds and discuss the process of magnetic field diffusion mediated by magnetic reconnection. For this process that we termed "reconnection diffusion," we provide a simple physical model and explain that this process is inevitable in view of the present-day understanding of MHD turbulence. We address the issue of the expected magnetization of cores and envelopes in the process of star formation and show that reconnection diffusion provides an efficient removal of magnetic flux that depends only on the properties of MHD turbulence in the core and the envelope. We show that as the amplitude of turbulence as well as the scale of turbulent motions decrease from the envelope to the core of the cloud, the diffusion of the magnetic field is faster in the envelope. As a result, the magnetic flux trapped during the collapse in the envelope is being released faster than the flux trapped in the core, resulting in much weaker fields in envelopes than in cores, as observed. We provide simple semi-analytical model calculations which support this conclusion and qualitatively agree with the observational results. Magnetic reconnection is also consistent with the lack of subcritical self-gravitating clouds, with the observed flat PDF of field strengths, and with the scaling of field strength with density. In addition, we demonstrate that the reconnection diffusion process can account for the empirical Larson relations and list a few other implications of the reconnection diffusion concept. We argue that magnetic reconnection provides a solution to the magnetic flux problem of star formation that agrees better with observations than the long-standing ambipolar diffusion paradigm. Due to the illustrative nature of our simplified model we do not seek quantitative agreement, but discuss the complementary nature of our approach to the three-dimensional MHD numerical simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number154
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012


  • cosmic rays
  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • scattering
  • turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Magnetization of cloud cores and envelopes and other observational consequences of reconnection diffusion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this