Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 484, 773-781 (2008/6-4)
A new probe of magnetic fields during high-mass star formation. Zeeman splitting of 6.7 GHz methanol masers.
Abstract (from CDS):
The role of magnetic fields during high-mass star formation is a matter of fierce debate, yet only a few direct probes of magnetic field strengths are available. The magnetic field is detected in a number of massive star-forming regions through polarization observations of 6.7GHz methanol masers. Although these masers are the most abundant of the maser species occurring during high-mass star formation, most magnetic field measurements in the high-density gas currently come from OH and H2O maser observations.The 100-m Effelsberg telescope was used to measure the Zeeman splitting of 6.7GHz methanol masers for the first time. The observations were performed on a sample of 24 bright northern maser sources.Significant Zeeman splitting is detected in 17 of the sources with an average magnitude of 0.56m/s. Using the current best estimate of the 6.7GHz methanol maser Zeeman splitting coefficient and a geometrical correction, this corresponds to an absolute magnetic field strength of 23mG in the methanol maser region.The magnetic field is dynamically important in the dense maser regions. No clear relation is found with the available OH maser magnetic field measurements. The general sense of direction of the magnetic field is consistent with other Galactic magnetic field measurements, although a few of the masers display a change of direction between different maser features. Due to the abundance of methanol masers, measuring their Zeeman splitting provides the opportunity to construct a comprehensive sample of magnetic fields in high-mass star-forming regions.