Interacting large-scale magnetic fields and ionized gas in the W50/SS433 system

J. S. Farnes*, B. M. Gaensler, C. Purcell, X. H. Sun, M. Haverkorn, E. Lenc, S. P. O’Sullivan, T. Akahori

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The W50/SS433 system is an unusual Galactic outflow-driven object of debatable origin. We have used the Australia Telescope Compact Array to observe a new 198 pointing mosaic, covering 3 × 2 , and present the highest-sensitivity full-Stokes data of W50 to date using wide-field, wide-band imaging over a 2 GHz bandwidth centred at 2.1 GHz. We also present a complementary Hα mosaic created using the Isaac Newton Telescope Photometric Hα Survey of the Northern Galactic Plane. The magnetic structure of W50 is consistent with the prevailing hypothesis that the nebula is a reanimated shell-like supernova remnant (SNR), which has been re-energized by the jets from SS433. We observe strong depolarization effects that correlate with diffuse Hα emission, likely due to spatially varying Faraday rotation measure (RM) fluctuations of ≥48–61 rad m−2 on scales ≤4.5–6 pc. We also report the discovery of numerous, faint, Hα filaments that are unambiguously associated with the central region of W50. These thin filaments are suggestive of an SNR’s shock emission, and almost all have a radio counterpart. Furthermore, an RM-gradient is detected across the central region of W50, which we interpret as a loop magnetic field with a symmetry axis offset by ≈90 to the east–west jet-alignment axis, and implying that the evolutionary processes of both the jets and the SNR must be coupled. A separate RM-gradient is associated with the termination shock in the eastern ear, which we interpret as a ring-like field located where the shock of the jet interacts with the circumstellar medium. Future optical observations will be able to use the new Hα filaments to probe the kinematics of the shell of W50, potentially allowing for a definitive experiment on W50’s formation history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4777-4801
Number of pages25
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • ISM: bubbles
  • ISM: jets and outflows
  • ISM: supernova remnants
  • Magnetic fields
  • Polarization
  • Radio continuum: ISM


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