Linear polarization of submillimetre masers. Tracing magnetic fields with ALMA
The goal of this work is to investigate if SiO, H2O and HCN maser emission within the ALMA frequency range can be detected with observable levels of fractional linear polarization in the regime where the Zeeman frequency (gOmega) is greater than the stimulated emission rate (R) and the decay rate of the molecular state (Gamma). We have used a radiative transfer code to calculate the fractional linear polarization as a function of the emerging brightness temperature for a number of rotational transition of SiO, H2O and HCN which have been observed to display maser emission at submillimetre wavelengths. We assume typical magnetic field strengths measured towards galactic star forming regions and circumstellar envelopes of late-type stars from previous VLBI observations. Since the Landé g-factors have not been reported for the different rotational transitions we have modeled, we performed our calculations assuming conservative values of the Zeeman frequency for the different molecular species. Setting a lower limit for the Zeeman frequency which still satisfies the criteria gOmega>R and gOmega>Gamma, we find fractional polarization levels of up to 13%, 14% and 19% for the higher J transitions analysed for SiO, H2O and HCN, respectively, without considering anisotropic pumping or any other non-Zeeman effect. Such upper limits were calculated assuming a magnetic field oriented perpendicular to the direction of propagation of the maser radiation. According to our results SiO, H2O and HCN maser emission within the ALMA frequency range can be detected with suitable linear polarization to trace the magnetic field structure towards star forming regions and late-type stars, even if the detected polarization has been enhanced by non-Zeeman effects.