Magnetic Field discovery gives clues to galaxy formation process
Astronomers making a detailed, multi-telescope study of a nearby galaxy have discovered a magnetic field coiled around the galaxy's main spiral arm. The discovery, they said, helps explain how galactic spiral arms are formed. The same study also shows how gas can be funneled inward toward the galaxy's center, which possibly hosts a black hole.
"This study helps resolve some major questions about how galaxies form and evolve," said Rainer Beck, of the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), in Bonn, Germany.
The scientists studied a galaxy called IC 342, some 10 million light-years from Earth, using the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), and the MPIfR's 100-meter Effelsberg radio telescope in Germany. Data from both radio telescopes were merged to reveal the magnetic structures of the galaxy.
The surprising result showed a huge, helically-twisted loop coiled around the galaxy's main spiral arm. Such a feature, never before seen in a galaxy, is strong enough to affect the flow of gas around the spiral arm.
"Spiral arms can hardly be formed by gravitational forces alone," Beck said. "This new IC 342 image indicates that magnetic fields also play an important role in forming spiral arms."
The new observations provided clues to another aspect of the galaxy, a bright central region that may host a black hole and also is prolifically producing new stars. To maintain the high rate of star production requires a steady inflow of gas from the galaxy's outer regions into its center.
"The magnetic field lines at the inner part of the galaxy point toward the galaxy's center, and would support an inward flow of gas," Beck said
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That is a pretty amazing observation! Or rather a pretty amazing discovery to find an illustrate such a clear visual of the universe that mirrors molecular structure like this!
Gives a whole new perspective to "As Above, So Below"...