Academic Article


  • A key indicator of the galactic environment of the Sun is provided by the magnetic field in the interstellar medium (ISM), which influences the shape of the heliosphere. The direction of the nearby interstellar magnetic field (ISMF) is determined from starlight polarized in the ISM. The local ISMF direction is found from the ISMF direction that provides the best fit to the polarization position angles of nearby stars, using weighted fits to the data. New polarization observations are included in the analysis. The best-fitting ISMF is close to the magnetic field direction traced by the center of the Ribbon of energetic neutral atoms, discovered by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft. Both the magnetic field and kinematics of the local ISM are consistent with a scenario where the local ISM is a fragment of the Loop I superbubble. An ordered component of the local ISMF is found in a region where PlanetPol data show that polarization increases with distance. It extends to within 8 parsecs of the Sun and implies a weak curvature in the nearby ISMF. Variations from the ordered component indicate turbulence of +/-23 deg. The local ISMF is generally uniform in direction over spatial scales of 8-200 parsecs so that it appears similar to interarm magnetic fields. The best-fitting ISMF direction also agrees with the position of tail-in spatial asymmetries in GeV-TeV galactic cosmic rays. The peculiar geometrical relation between the CMB dipole moment, the heliosphere nose, and local ISMF is supported by these new results. Radiative torques are not likely to play a role in grain alignment for these polarizations.
  • Authors

  • Frisch, PC
  • Andersson, B-G
  • Berdyugin, A
  • Piirola, V
  • DeMajistre, R
  • Funsten, HO
  • Magalhaes, AM
  • Seriacopi, DB
  • McComas, DJ
  • Schwadron, Nathan
  • Slavin, JD
  • Wiktorowicz, SJ
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • December 1, 2012
  • Has Subject Area


  • ISM: bubbles
  • ISM: magnetic fields
  • Sun: heliosphere
  • local interstellar matter
  • methods: data analysis
  • polarization
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 106
  • End Page

  • 106
  • Volume

  • 760
  • Issue

  • 2