We propose a model for the origin of the isolated nonthermal filaments observed at the Galactic center based on an analogy to cometary plasma tails. We invoke the interaction between a large-scale magnetized galactic wind and embedded molecular clouds. As the advected wind magnetic field encounters a dense molecular cloud, it is impeded and drapes around the cloud, ultimately forming a current sheet in the wake. This draped held is further stretched by the wind flow into a long, thin filament the aspect ratio of which is determined by the balance between the dynamical wind and amplified magnetic field pressures. The key feature of this cometary model is that the filaments are dynamic configurations, and not static structures. As such, they are local amplifications of an otherwise weak field and not directly connected to any static global field. The derived field strengths for the wind and wake are consistent with observational estimates. Finally, the observed synchrotron emission is naturally explained by the acceleration of electrons to high energy by plasma and MHD turbulence generated in the cloud wake.
The Astrophysical Journal
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Shore SN and LaRosa TN. 1999. The galactic center isolated nonthermal filaments as analogs of cometary plasma tails. Astrophys J 521(2):587-90.