Magnetic fields in the Perseus spiral arm and in infrared dark clouds
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The magnetic (B) field is ubiquitous throughout the Milky Way. Several fundamental questions about the B-field in the cool, star-forming interstellar medium (ISM) remain unanswered. In this dissertation, near-infrared (NIR) polarimetric observations are used to study the large-scale Galactic B-field in the cool ISM in a spiral arm and to determine the role of B-fields in the formation of Infrared Dark Clouds (IRDCs). NIR polarimetry of 31 star clusters, located in and around the Perseus spiral arm, were obtained to determine the orientation of the plane-of-sky B-field in the outer Galaxy, and whether the presence of a spiral arm influenced B-field properties. Cluster distances, which provide upper limits to the B-field probed by observations, were estimated by developing a maximum likelihood method to fit theoretical stellar isochrones to stars in cluster color-magnitude diagrams (CMDs). Using the distance estimates, the cluster locations relative to the Perseus arm were found. The cluster polarization percentages and orientations were compared between clusters foreground to the arm and clusters inside or behind the arm. The cluster polarization orientations are predominantly parallel to the Galactic plane. Clusters inside and behind the arm have larger polarization percentages, likely a result of more polarizing material along the line of sight. The cluster polarization data were also compared to optical, inner Galaxy NIR, and Planck submm polarimetry data, and showed agreement with all three data sets. The polarimetric properties of one IRDC, G28.23, were determined using deep NIR observations. The polarization orientations relative to the cloud major axis were found to change directions with distance from the cloud axis. The B-field strength was estimated to be 10 to 100uG. Despite these large inferred B-field strengths, the B-field was found not to be the dominant force in the formation of the IRDC, though the B-field morphology was influenced by the cloud. Using NIR observations, the B-field of 27 IRDCs were studied. The relative polarization orientations with respect to the cloud major axes were found. No preferential relative orientation was found, implying that the B-field did not greatly influence the formation of this sample of IRDCs.