Our planet, together with the remainder of the solar system and a few close by stars, could also be trapped inside a large magnetic tunnel — and astronomers do not know why.
A tube of huge magnetized tendrils, 1,000 light-years lengthy and invisible to the bare eye, might encircle the solar system, astronomers suggest in a brand new paper. Jennifer West, an astronomer on the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics on the University of Toronto, made the proposal after an investigation into the North Polar Spur and the Fan Region — two of the brightest radio-emitting fuel constructions in our galactic neighborhood — revealed that the 2 constructions is perhaps linked regardless that they’re positioned on totally different sides of the sky.
The curving tendrils — that are product of each charged particles and a magnetic field, and resemble lengthy, skinny ropes — venture outward from the North Polar Spur and the Fan Region. Not solely might the unusual cosmic ropes hyperlink the 2 areas, however they might kind one thing akin to “a curving tunnel” the place the tendrils are like “the lines formed by the tunnel lights and road lane marker,” the researchers mentioned.
This would place our solar system together with a small chunk of the Milky Way, inside the large magnetic tunnel.
The North Polar Spur, which seems as an unlimited yellow cloud stretching above the airplane of our galaxy, is a big crest of fuel emitting X-rays and radio waves. The Fan Region is much less understood however produces numerous polarized radio waves. Though these uncommon areas in space had been found within the Sixties, scientific understanding of them stays patchy, and most earlier research described every construction individually.
But by plugging information from radio wave observations into a brand new laptop mannequin, West and her colleagues mapped out the possible size and place of the big ropes. The mannequin estimated that the ropes had been roughly 1,000 light-years lengthy and that the constructions had been probably about 350 light-years from the solar system.
West says that the inspiration for her mannequin got here when she was a pupil, seeing the tendrils upon her first inspection of a map of the radio sky. Years later, she was advised of a 1965 paper which speculated on the unusual radio alerts.
“Based on the crude data available at this time, the authors (Mathewson & Milne) speculated that these polarized radio signals could arise from our view of the Local Arm of the galaxy, from inside it,” West mentioned within the assertion. “That paper inspired me to develop this idea and tie my model to the vastly better data that our telescopes give us today.”
It’s not simply in our a part of the universe that these cosmic filaments have been noticed. In reality, they’re ubiquitous all through the galaxy and may radiate many various kinds of mild. The researchers word of their research that filamentary constructions have been seen emitting optical mild close to remnants of gigantic stellar explosions, or supernovas; in molecular clouds; and within the partitions of “galactic chimneys” — huge cavities created by a number of supernova explosions, by way of which scorching fuel from the galactic disk flows to the galactic halo. In reality, some studies have even gone as far to recommend that spiraling filaments of molecular fuel might be the “bones” that kind the “skeleton” of the Milky Way.
The scientists’ subsequent steps are to verify their findings by taking detailed observations of the areas they simulated, and to then use these observations to refine their mannequin. West hopes that, by deepening the mannequin, she will enhance astronomers’ capability to know different magnetic filaments noticed round our galaxy. Another intriguing chance is that the invisible magnetic ropes might be a small a part of a a lot bigger galactic construction.
“Magnetic fields don’t exist in isolation. They all must connect to each other,” West mentioned. “So a next step is to better understand how this local magnetic field connects both to the larger-scale galactic magnetic field and also to the smaller-scale magnetic fields of our sun and Earth.
“I feel it is simply superior to think about that these constructions are in all places, each time we glance up into the evening sky,” West added.
The researchers printed their findings Sept. 29 on the preprint server arXiv, which implies it has but to be peer reviewed.
Originally printed on Live Science.