JCMT/SOFIA Joint Virtual Workshop: Magnetic Fields Spill Secrets Of Star Formation

“Magnetic Fields and the Structure of the Filamentary Interstellar Medium”, a JCMT and SOFIA Joint Virtual Scientific Workshop


During the period of 22nd – 25th of June, 2021, a virtual workshop on “Magnetic Fields and the Structure of the Filamentary Interstellar Medium” was held online. This workshop brought together more than 150 staff and user community members of the ground-based James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) and the aircraft-based Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) for a range of exciting scientific presentations, papers and discussions.

Much of the meeting discourse focused on the presence of interstellar magnetic fields at a range of size scales, and their impact on the lifecycle of Infrared Dark Clouds (IRDCs). IRDCs are the coldest, densest regions interstellar of Giant Molecular Clouds. Sub-millimeter and infrared observations of these IRDCs are particularly important to astronomers because they play a central role in the formation of stars. As a part of this process, the complex interplay of magnetic fields, gravity, chemistry, pressure and density within these regions gives rise to complex clumpy and filamentary structures, which in turn provide hints about their origins.

Since magnetic fields are invisible, astronomers must use indirect methods to trace them. This is made possible because a large number of  tiny interstellar dust grains in these cold, dense regions tend to become aligned by the local magnetic fields. These large collections of aligned dust grains then polarize the infrared and sub-mm light passing between them, in a manner akin to that of polarized sunglasses lenses. These astronomical polarization effects, the details of which were also discussed extensively during this meeting, can therefore be mapped with instruments such as JCMT’s SCUBA-2/POL-2 and SOFIA’s HAWC+, and have already provided a detailed picture of the competing physical influences within the clouds, and hence their effects on the formation of stars.

For further information, please visit the main workshop page here:


Videos of the invited talks are available here:


Videos of the pre-recorded contributed talks are available here:



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