Magnetic Filaments Of The Milky Way Have Some Surprisingly Distant Relatives


Some Surprisingly Far Away Relatives Are Shared By The Mysterious Magnetic Filaments Of The Milky Way

Early this year, astronomers reported finding around 1,000 magnetic filaments encircling the Milky Way, the center of our galaxy. Some of these structures have been known to scientists for more than 40 years, but no satisfactory explanation has ever been found for them. The discovery of countless additional structures has only added to the problem's complexity. Now that astronomers have discovered comparable structures farther away, they believe there are two possible explanations.

In fact, magnetic fields are quite common in space, making them less mysterious. But these magnetic filaments are really strange. They are detected by radio waves, but if they were visible to ordinary telescopes, the lens would appear to be covered in hair.

With further-reaching telescopes, the team found filaments around a galaxy cluster one billion light-years from Earth. Thousands of galaxies, including several active radio galaxies, can be found in this region. They seem to be the ideal environment for the development of magnetic filaments that are both older and larger than those observed in the Milky Way's center.

The filaments in other galaxies are starting to emerge as a new population of extragalactic filaments, according to Farhad Yusef-Zadeh from Northwestern University. "We know a lot about the filaments in our own Galactic Center," he said. "Despite the very different environments, the underlying physical mechanisms for both populations of filaments are comparable. The objects are related, but the filaments outside the Milky Way are older, more distant—and by more distant, I mean very distant—cousins.

The Milky Way's and other galaxies' locations imply a connection between supermassive black holes there and the material jets those black holes release after going into a feeding frenzy.

The filaments are about 150 light-years long in the Milky Way and tower close to our supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*; however, in the galaxy cluster, they are 100 to 10,000 times longer, with some of them reaching 700,000 light-years. Compared to the entire Milky Way, that is four to five times larger. Electrically charged particles would have required a very long time to form.

I was overjoyed to see these incredibly beautiful structures, said Zadeh, "after studying filaments in our own Galactic Center for all these years." "It suggests that something universal is happening because we found these filaments elsewhere in the universe."

In contrast to the Milky Way, the extragalactic filaments seem to be located at a roughly 90-degree angle to the black hole jet's direction. But they share the same length-to-width ratio and energy-transporting mechanisms as our local filaments.

The interaction of an unexpected structure like a gas cloud with the galactic wind of electrically charged particles produced by a galaxy rotating is one explanation. In doing so, a comet-like object is produced, which fits the magnetic filaments well. The second theory is supported by simulations, which show that a filamentary structure develops when a turbulent medium produces swirls in the presence of a weak magnetic field.

Although more observations are needed to fully understand what is happening, it is amazing that these structures have survived this far out in space and time.

These filaments outside of our galaxy are all very old, Zadeh continued. They almost seem to be from a different time in the history of the universe, but they are still letting the inhabitants of the Milky Way know that the filaments' formation shared a common ancestor. I find this to be amazing.

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