OH Maser Sources in W49N: Probing Magnetic Field and Differential Anisotropic Scattering with Zeeman pairs using the VLBA
Our analysis of a VLBA 12-hour synthesis observation of the OH masers in a well-known star-forming region W49N has yielded valuable data that enables us to probe distributions of magnetic fields in both the maser columns and the intervening interstellar medium (ISM). The data consisting of detailed high angular-resolution images (with beam-width ~20 milli-arc-seconds) of several dozen OH maser sources or "spots", at 1612, 1665 and 1667 MHz, reveal anisotropic scatter broadening, with typical sizes of a few tens of milli-arc-seconds and axial ratios between 1.5 to 3. Such anisotropies have been reported earlier by Desai, Gwinn & Diamond (1994) and interpreted as induced by the local magnetic field parallel to the Galactic plane. However, we find a) the apparent angular sizes on the average a factor of ~2.5 less than those reported by Desai et al. (1994), indicating significantly less scattering than inferred earlier, and b) a significant deviation in the average orientation of the scatter-broadened images (by ~10 degrees) from that implied by the magnetic field in the Galactic plane. More intriguingly, for a few Zeeman pairs in our set, significant differences (up to 6 sigma) are apparent in the scatter broadened images for the two hands of circular polarization, even when apparent velocity separation is less than 0.1 km/s. This may possibly be the first example of a Faraday rotation contribution to the diffractive effects in the ISM. Using the Zeeman pairs, we also study the distribution of magnetic field in the W49N complex, finding no significant trend in the spatial structure function. In this paper, we present the details of our observations and analysis leading to these findings, discuss implications of our results for the intervening anisotropic magneto-ionic medium, and suggest the possible implications for the structure of magnetic fields within this star-forming region.