A British TV viewer discovers a galaxy that turns out to be very special after nine years

A British TV viewer discovers a galaxy that turns out to be very special after nine years

Scientists have detected the magnetic field of a galaxy so far away that it took more than 11 billion years for light to reach us. New record! It is for Galaxy 9io9. This galaxy It was discovered in 2014 When British TV viewers watched millions of galaxies for three nights.

Galaxies – like the Earth (and other planets) and the Sun (and other stars) – have magnetic fields. However, these magnetic fields are often very weak. For example, the magnetic field of our galaxy is hundreds of thousands of times weaker than Earth’s. However, the magnetic field lines of galaxies are many times larger. “It spans tens of thousands of light years,” says Professor James Geach of the University of Hertfordshire.

Astronomers hope to solve the mental puzzle
And in 2017, astronomers discovered a galaxy that already had a strong magnetic field five billion years ago. This record has now been broken. This is good news, because there are scientists who believe that galaxies are born with a weak magnetic field and that this field grows stronger with time. But is this really true? No one knows exactly, because so far only the magnetic fields of nearby galaxies have been mapped. We hope that the new discovery will solve this mental problem. “We actually know very little about how these spheres form, even though they are very fundamental to the evolution of galaxies,” said researcher Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez from Stanford University. “However, this discovery provides new clues about how magnetic fields form on a galactic scale,” Geach adds.

How was the magnetic field discovered?
Galaxies contain a lot of dust. If there was a magnetic field, these dust grains would line up with that field and the light they were emitting would be polarized. Light waves vibrate in a preferred direction, not in random directions. The scientists used the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) to capture polarized light waves to map the magnetic field. “No other telescope could have done this,” says Geach.

This image shows the direction of the magnetic field in the galaxy 9io9, when the universe was only 2.5 billion years old. To put it in perspective: the sun didn’t exist back then! By the way, the polarized light signal from dust is very weak: only 1% of the galaxy’s total brightness.

Thanks to star formation?
The researchers suspect that magnetic fields evolved rapidly due to violent star formation in the young universe. These fields may have influenced later generations of stars. in the paper – Published in the journal Nature – Scientists write that in the galaxy 9io9 more stars are being born than in our galaxy, the Milky Way. “This discovery provides a new perspective on how galaxies work,” says European Southern Observatory astronomer Rob Evenson. “Magnetic fields are closely related to the material from which new stars are formed.”

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