Photo: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/R. HURT (SSC/CALTECH) / copyright
Our solar system is encased in a gigantic “magnetic tunnel” linking two vast regions of our galaxy that seemed to be disconnected.
That is the conclusion of a recent study in the area of magnetic fields of the cosmos, a feature of our universe about which there are still many unanswered questions.
This finding by a team at the University of Toronto may be useful in better understanding how the universe’s magnetic fields work and how they affect the behavior and evolution of the galaxies.
“This model has implications for the development of a holistic model of magnetic fields in galaxies,” the study authors write.
What was the finding and how can it help improve our understanding of the universe?
The investigation was focused on two gigantic structures of our Milky Way.
One is the North Polar Spur and the other is the Fan Region.
The North Polar Spur is a huge strip of hot gas It emits X-rays and radio waves.
For its part, the Abanico Region is an area highly polarizedwhose electric field opens in the form of a fan.
Both regions are visible through radio telescopes and, from Earth, are located in opposite sides from space.
Until now, these two structures had been studied individually, but the work from the University of Toronto shows for the first time that they are connected by a “tunnel” within which is our solar system.
“The magnetic fields They don’t exist in isolation.Jennifer West, an expert researcher in galaxy magnetism at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Physics at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study, says in a statement.
“Everyone needs to connect with each other. So the next step is to better understand how this local magnetic field connects with both the larger-scale galactic magnetic field and the smaller-scale magnetic fields of our Sun and Earth.”
The magnetic field of galaxies
Every galaxy has a natural magnetic field, but it is weakaccording to Christopher S. Bair, a professor of physics at West Texas A&M University.
“Our galaxy’s magnetic field is about 100 times weaker than Earth’s magnetic field,” Bair writes on the blog Science Questions With Surprising Answers.
The magnetic field of a galaxy is created in a similar way to how the Earth’s magnetic field is created: through the dynamo effect.
The rotation of the galaxy causes the interstellar gas that is full of charged particles to move. In that way, the Kinetic energy of moving particles creates a magnetic field.
That magnetic field, in turn, acts on the charged particles, thereby amplifying the magnetic field.
To discover that “tunnel,” West and his colleagues ran simulations of what space would look like from Earth if radio waves from the North Polar Spur and Fan Region emit light.
In this way, they realized that both regions are connected by magnetic filament structures.
“If we could see the light from radio (waves), we would see this glowing material stretching across the sky in several different directions,” West told CBS.
West refers to a complex system of charged particles and magnetic filaments, which form a kind of tunnel that surrounds the solar system and some outer stars.
According to West’s calculations, that tunnel would be about 1,000 light-years long.
inside the tunnel
According to the authors of the research, their findings may serve to better understand other filament structures that are increasingly being observed by researchers. modern radio telescopes.
“We still don’t fully understand the origin and evolution of regular magnetic fields in galaxies and how these fields are maintained,” they write in their study.
“Imagine that we are sitting inside a tunnel… and the rest of the galaxy is outside that tunnel, and the rest of the universe is outside that tunnel. But we are insideWest told CBC.
“Because we are inside it, we have to look through it all the time. I think it’s a very important first step in understanding the larger universe,” concludes West.
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