SOFIA/HAWC+ Traces the Magnetic Fields in NGC 1068

Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, C. Darren Dowell, Terry J. Jones, Doyal A. Harper, Marc Berthoud, David Chuss, Daniel A. Dale, Jordan A. Guerra, Ryan T. Hamilton, Leslie W. Looney, Joseph M. Michail, Robert Nikutta, Giles Novak, Fabio P. Santos, Kartik Sheth, Javad Siah, Johannes Staguhn, Ian W. Stephens, Konstantinos Tassis, Christopher Q. TrinhDerek Ward-Thompson, Michael Werner, Edward J. Wollack, Ellen G. Zweibel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report the first detection of galactic spiral structure by means of thermal emission from magnetically aligned dust grains. Our 89 μm polarimetric imaging of NGC 1068 with the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera/Polarimeter (HAWC+) on NASAs Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) also sheds light on magnetic field structure in the vicinity of the galaxy's inner-bar and active galactic nucleus (AGN). We find correlations between the 89 μm magnetic field vectors and other tracers of spiral arms, and a symmetric polarization pattern as a function of the azimuthal angle arising from the projection and inclination of the disk field component in the plane of the sky. The observations can be fit with a logarithmic spiral model with pitch angle of and a disk inclination of 48° ± 2°. We infer that the bulk of the interstellar medium from which the polarized dust emission originates is threaded by a magnetic field that closely follows the spiral arms. Inside the central starburst disk (<1.6 kpc), the degree of polarization is found to be lower than for far-infrared sources in the Milky Way, and has minima at the locations of most intense star formation near the outer ends of the inner-bar. Inside the starburst ring, the field direction deviates from the model, becoming more radial along the leading edges of the inner-bar. The polarized flux and dust temperature peak ∼3″-6″ NE of the AGN at the location of a bow shock between the AGN outflow and the surrounding interstellar medium, but the AGN itself is weakly polarized (<1%) at both 53 and 89 μm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number66
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 10 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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