Sunday, May 30, 2021


An astronomer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has discovered a mysterious interstellar energy source that would govern the flow of energy from the Milky Way to the evolution of our galaxy. In a dazzling image of the galactic center that makes up a true work of cosmic art, the specialist identified a thread-like structure that intertwines X-rays and radio emissions.

The centre of galaxies is always their most active and dynamic zone: there, generally, the most violent energetic interactions and other phenomena that mark their evolution by fire take place. However, the centre of the Milky Way is not easy to observe and analyze: a dense fog of gas and dust becomes a sometimes impregnable mantle for astronomers.

Leveraging the technology of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa, a new study signed by astronomer Daniel Wang has managed to traverse that nebulous layer and obtain a magical snapshot of the heart of the Milky Way. Beyond the artistic beauty of the image, it demonstrates the presence of a phenomenon never observed so far.

Interstellar magnetic reconnection, sir.

Different magnetic fields make up a kind of tapestry that stretches across the center of the Milky Way, according to a press release. In one of the wire-shaped structures X-rays and mixed radio emissions have been detected, which for Wang are evidence of «an ongoing magnetic field reconnection event».

The aforementioned «thread» has been named G0.17-0.41, being located in the area adjacent to two X-ray emitting columns that are observed emerging from the region near Sagittarius A, the huge supermassive black hole that dominates the center of the Milky Way.

The so-called magnetic field reconnection occurs when two opposing fields are intertwined, thereby releasing an enormous amount of energy. The structure discovered could help to verify that magnetic reconnection also happens in interstellar space: until now only its impact on solar flares or northern lights was known.

An energy source that handles galactic dynamics?

Magnetic reconnection events would thus be a vital energy source in interstellar dynamics. For example, they could be responsible for accelerating particles to produce cosmic rays such as those arriving on Earth or for generating the conditions for the birth of new stars.

According to the study, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, this still-unknown power source could also mark different phenomena linked to space weather.

From here on, new studies will seek to determine what is the total amount of energy that emanates from structures in the form of thread 

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