We present the first high-resolution, submillimeter-wavelength polarimetric observations of—and thus direct observations of the magnetic field morphology within—the dense gas of the Pillars of Creation in M16. These 850 μm observations, taken as part of the B-Fields in Star-forming Region Observations Survey (BISTRO) using the POL-2 polarimeter on the Submillimeter Common-User Bolometer Array 2 (SCUBA-2) camera on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), show that the magnetic field runs along the length of the Pillars, perpendicular to and decoupled from the field in the surrounding photoionized cloud. Using the Chandrasekhar–Fermi method we estimate a plane-of-sky magnetic field strength of 170–320 μG in the Pillars, consistent with their having been formed through the compression of gas with initially weak magnetization. The observed magnetic field strength and morphology suggests that the magnetic field may be slowing the Pillars’ evolution into cometary globules. We thus hypothesize that the evolution and lifetime of the Pillars may be strongly influenced by the strength of the coupling of their magnetic field to that of their parent photoionized cloud—i.e., that the Pillars’ longevity results from magnetic support.
Pattle, Kate; Ward-Thompson, Derek; Hasegawa, Tetsuo; Bastien, Pierre; Kwon, Woojin; Lai, Shih-Ping; Qiu, Keping; Furuya, Ray; Berry, David; JCMT BISTRO Survey Team
2018, The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 860, L6