Year of Publication

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Thomas Troland

Abstract

The object of this dissertation is to provide an observational study of the effects of interstellar magnetic fields on star-formation regions. This is part of a long-standing research project that uses the techniques of radio astronomy to measure magnetic field strengths in the interstellar medium of our galaxy. Interstellar magnetic fields are believed to play a crucial role in the star-formation process therefore a comprehensive study of magnetic fields is necessary in understanding the origins of stars. These projects use observational data obtained from the Very Large Array (VLA) in Socorro, NM. The data reveal interstellar magnetic field strengths via the Zeeman effect in radio frequency spectral lines. This information provides an estimate of the magnetic energy in star-forming interstellar clouds in the Galaxy, and comparisons can be made with these energies and the energies of self-gravitation and internal motions. From these comparisons, a better understanding of the role of magnetic fields in the origins of stars will emerge. The regions observed include the giant molecular clouds and star-forming regions of Cygnus X and NGC 6334. NGC 6334 A is a compact HII region at the center of what is believed to be a large, rotating molecular torus (based on studies by Kramer et al. (1997)). This is a continuing study based on initial measurements of the HI and OH Zeeman effect (Sarma et al. (2000)). The current study includes OH observations performed by the VLA at a higher spatial resolution than previously published data, and allows for a better analysis of the spatial variations of the magnetic field. A new model of the region is also developed based on OH opacity studies, dust continuum maps, radio spectral lines, and infrared (IR) maps. The VLA has been used to study the Zeeman effect in the 21cm HI line seen in absorption against radio sources in the Cygnus-X region. These sources are mostly galactic nebulae or HII regions, and are bright and compact in this region of the spectrum. HI absorption lines are strong against these regions and the VLA is capable of detecting the weak Zeeman effect within them.

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