Revealing Cosmic “Skeletons” – SOFIA Maps the First Magnetic Fields of a Galactic Bone in Their Entirety

G47 Magnetic Fields

A map shows the direction of magnetic fields in the G47 bone overlain atop an image of the G47 filament as seen by the Herschel Space Observatory. The red and yellow areas are high-density regions of dust and gas. Credit: G47: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Ke Wang et al. 2015; Polarization map: Stephens et al., 2021

Most stars in spiral galaxies form within the galaxy’s arms. Building the “skeletons” of these galaxies are galactic bones, long filaments that outline the densest parts of the arms.

At the largest scales, the magnetic fields of a galaxy follow its spiral arms. Fields in the bones were accordingly believed to be aligned with respect to the bone, but research from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a joint project of NASA and the German Space Agency at DLR, hints that this is generally not the case. The magnetic fields do not follow the spiral shape of the galaxy’s arms, nor are they in general perpendicular to the bones.

“Before SOFIA, it was difficult to image magnetic fields at high resolution over the entirety of the bones,” said Ian Stephens, an astrophysicist at Worcester State University. “We are now able to get so many independent measurements of the magnetic field direction across these bones, allowing us to really delve into the importance of the magnetic field in these massive filamentary clouds.”

Stephens is part of the Filaments Extremely Long and Dark: a MAgnetic Polarization Survey (FIELDMAPS) project, the first attempt to map the magnetic field of any galactic bone in its entirety. Of the ten bones the group plans to map, the first project completed by FIELDMAPS is that of G47, a giant filamentary bone within the Milky Way that is 200 light-years in length and 5 light-years in width.

“Magnetic fields…can potentially set the rate at which stars form in a cloud. They can also guide the flow of gas, shape the bones, and affect the quantity and size of the densest pockets of gas that will eventually collapse to form stars,” Stephens said. “By mapping the orientation of the fields, we can estimate the relative importance of the magnetic field to that of gravity to quantify how much magnetic fields affect the star formation process.”

The researchers did just that and were able to determine that the magnetic fields are strong enough to prevent gas in many areas from succumbing to gravitational collapse to form stars. They found the magnetic fields in the G47 bone were complex, changing directions frequently – though in the densest areas, they trended perpendicular to the bone. This means the parallel fields from the less dense regions are feeding material into the denser regions, where fields play a key role in the star formation rate by impeding the birth of new stars.

FIELDMAPS used the HAWC+ polarimeter aboard SOFIA, which determines the alignment of dust, allowing astrophysicists to sense the direction of the magnetic field so it can be observed from afar. This enabled the largest and most detailed maps ever made of magnetic fields across galactic bones.

The group has more galactic bones to analyze, which they plan to compare with computer simulations of spiral galaxies. Together, these results will help develop a more thorough description of the role of magnetic fields in spiral galaxies’ arms.

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Space Agency at DLR. DLR provides the telescope, scheduled aircraft maintenance, and other support for the mission. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science, and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California.

4 Comments on "Revealing Cosmic “Skeletons” – SOFIA Maps the First Magnetic Fields of a Galactic Bone in Their Entirety"

  1. Just compare everything to us , basically we are energy our souls are energy our bodies are flesh in the flesh our body’s are only vessels to hold the energy.we are also made up of atoms, monocle systems think about what I’m saying yall are working so hard to explain something th as t is already explained .
    Don’t try to understand something that was told long ago when the men of the Bible explained and now scientist have to figure out what isn’t even hard enough for you geniuses to have to strain brain cells to figure out .
    With due respect sir or sir or should I say to who this concerns

  2. I believe it is energy, souls going to and frow earth.
    Energy going to earth to be birthed threw there host !
    And energy leaving there host, that have dead .
    Destination known, to meat there maker!
    That’s my theory.
    But again with all do respect, I’m aware that most of you(Scientists) can’t believe it is or can be that simple.
    Also I also am aware that most don’t even believe in the Bible or should I say the explanation that it gives that is respectfully your answers

  3. From ashes you were made .
    And to ashes you will become.
    That is your fleshy vessel.
    The soul lives on.and
    And yes it is a congeous being (energy)
    If you believe and to believe is to have faith .
    And to have faith is to believe in something that you haven’t seen.
    And to believe=== everlasting life.

  4. Lol. You stupid astrophysicists are the stubborn idiots or flat out grifters for not using the scientific method. When all discoveries challenge their model they say there must be new physics we havent discovered yet lol. We live in Electric Universe. The filaments are electrical forces causeing magnetic fields Duh. You dont need dark matter unless your trying to force a incorrect theory which is what they have been doing for years. . What you need to do is admit that the gravity based standard model is BS. They wont even say electricity to describe it in space. The standard model astrophysicist lost any respect they think they deserve all they are is intelligent grifters who deny reality for a paycheck. They are not scientist trying to find the truth they are frauds trying to prove their theory they are looking only for info that helps then. Its all group think cheerleading wannabes. Any standard model cheerleader are the problem we need new real scientist using the method of science

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