A Galaxy 5 Billion Light-Years Away Just Taught Us Something New About The Universe

“We have obtained a major clue needed for solving this mystery.”

Cosmic Magnets

Astronomers have observed that a galaxy five billion light-years away from Earth has a magnetic field very similar to our own. We’ve never observed a coherent magnetic field in a galaxy this far away before, and the discovery provides critical insights into the formation and evolution of magnetism in the universe. science space universe of science

Cosmic Magnets

Because this galaxy is five billion light-years away from the Milky Way, it is also five billion years younger. By observing that it has a magnetic field similar in configuration and strength to our own galaxy, these researchers are providing evidence that galactic magnetic fields form during the early stages of a galaxy’s existence and enjoy relative stability afterward. science space universe of science

“This means that magnetism is generated very early in a galaxy’s life by natural processes, and thus that almost every heavenly body is magnetic,” co-author Professor Bryan Gaensler of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, said in a statement. “The implication is that we need to understand magnetism to understand the universe.” science space universe of science

In order to study how galactic magnetic fields evolve, researchers need to observe galaxies at various distances from Earth, since those observations automatically provide them with data on galaxies of various ages. However, we don’t have a way to directly observe magnetic fields, which means making these observations isn’t easy. science space universe of science

To that end, scientists instead look for Faraday rotation, the “fingerprint” magnetic fields leave on light that passes through them. In this case, the observation was made possible by a quasaron the other side of the galaxy, the light from which passed through the magnetic field of the studied galaxy. science space universe of science

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