- Press Release
- September 25, 2022
Magnetic Field of a Spiral Galaxy
The magnetic field lines extend as much as 22,500 light-years beyond the galaxy’s disk. Scientists know that magnetic fields play an important role in many processes, such as star formation, within galaxies.
However, it is not fully understood how such huge magnetic fields are generated and maintained. A leading explanation, called the dynamo theory, suggests that magnetic fields are generated by the motion of plasma within the galaxy’s disk. Ideas about the cause of the kinds of large vertical extensions seen in this image are more speculative, and astronomers hope that further observations and more analysis will answer some of the outstanding questions.
“This image clearly shows that when we think of galaxies like the Milky Way, we should not forget that they have galaxy-wide magnetic fields,” said Yelena Stein, of the Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg, leader of the study.
“CHANG-ES XXI. Transport Processes and the X-Shaped Magnetic Field of NGC 4217: Off-Center Superbubble Structure,” Y. Stein et al., 2020 July 21, Astronomy & Astrophysics [https://www.aanda.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202037675, preprint: https://arxiv.org/abs/2007.03002].
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.