Context. Magnetic fields play a fundamental role in star formation processes and the best method to evaluate their intensity is to measure the Zeeman effect of atomic and molecular lines. However, a direct measurement of the Zeeman spectral pattern from interstellar molecular species is challenging due to the high sensitivity and high spectral resolution required. So far, the Zeeman effect has been detected unambiguously in star forming regions for very few non-masing species, such as OH and CN. Aims. We decided to investigate the suitability of sulfur monoxide (SO), which is one of the most abundant species in star forming regions, for probing the intensity of magnetic fields via the Zeeman effect. Methods. We investigated the Zeeman effect for several rotational transitions of SO in the (sub-)mm spectral regions by using a frequency-modulated, computer-controlled spectrometer, and by applying a magnetic field parallel to the radiation propagation (i.e., perpendicular to the oscillating magnetic field of the radiation). To support the experimental determination of the g factors of SO, a systematic quantum-chemical investigation of these parameters for both SO and O2 has been carried out. Results. An effective experimental-computational strategy for providing accurate g factors as well as for identifying the rotational transitions showing the strongest Zeeman effect has been presented. Revised g factors have been obtained from a large number of SO rotational transitions between 86 and 389 GHz. In particular, the rotational transitions showing the largest Zeeman shifts are: N,J = 2, 2 ← 1, 1 (86.1 GHz), N,J = 4, 3 ← 3, 2 (159.0 GHz), N,J = 1, 1 ← 0, 1 (286.3 GHz), N,J = 2, 2 ← 1, 2 (309.5 GHz), and N,J = 2, 1 ← 1, 0 (329.4 GHz). Our investigation supports SO as a good candidate for probing magnetic fields in high-density star forming regions.
Bibliographical noteFree access.
- ISM: molecules
- Molecular data
- Methods: data analysis
- Methods: laboratory: molecular
- Magnetic fields