This is one of those WHOA moments in astronomy that makes you go, hold my coffee while I check If I’m dreaming.
Astronomers have detected for the first time ever, a massive magnetic field associated with the Magellanic Bridge, the gas filament covering 75,000 light-years between two of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way.
Visible in the southern night sky, the Great and Small Magellanic Clouds are dwarf galaxies that orbit our Milky Way galaxy and are located at a distance of 160 and 200,000 light-years from Earth, respectively.
“There were indications that this magnetic field may exist, but no one had observed it so far,” said Jane Kaczmarek, a Ph.D. student at the University of Sydney Physics Faculty and lead author of the article describing the astonishing discovery.
Such cosmic magnetic fields can only be detected indirectly, and this detection was made by observing the radio signals of hundreds of very distant galaxies that lie beyond the Magellanic galaxies.
Observations were made with the Australia Telescope Compact Array radio telescope at the Paul Wild Observatory in New South Wales.
“Radio signals from distant galaxies served as background flashlights shining through the Bridge,” says Kaczmarek.
“Its magnetic field changes the polarization of the radio signal, and the way it changes polarized light tells us about the intermediate magnetic field.”
A radio signal, like a wave of light, oscillates or vibrates in a single direction or plane; for example, waves on the surface o pond move up and down.
When a radio signal passes through a magnetic field, the plane is rotated. This phenomenon is referred to as the Faraday Rotation and allows astronomers to measure the force and polarity—or direction—of the field.
Observation of this magnetic field, which is believed to be one millionth of the strength of Earth’s magnetic field, can provide experts with data on whether it was generated from within the bridge after the structure formed, or was “uprooted” from the dwarf galaxies when they interacted and formed the structure.
“Generally speaking, we do not know how vast magnetic fields are generated, nor how these large-scale magnetic fields affect the formation and evolution of galaxies,” says Kaczmarek.
“Magellan’s clouds are our closest neighbors, so understanding how they evolve can help us understand how our Milky Way Galaxy will evolve.”
“Understanding the role of magnetic fields in the evolution of galaxies and their environment is a fundamental question in astronomy that has yet to be answered.”
The study is one of a growing number of new findings that are building a map of the magnetism of our Universe. According to Professor Bryan Gaensler, director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and the co-author of the paper, “not only galaxies are magnetic, but also thin strands that link galaxies are magnetic. We observe the sky; we find magnetism. ”
Well, almost as Tesla said, everything is connected, and apparently, everything is magnetism. I guess Tesla wasn’s so mistaken after all when he spoke about the wonders of the universe… don’t you agree?