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News Release - New research reveals spiral galaxy's magnetic field, 67 million light years from earth

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

(July 21, 2020) A new image has been released showing the huge extent of a spiral galaxy's magnetic field. The galaxy NGC 4217 is a star-forming, spiral galaxy, similar to the Milky Way, 67 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major. 

Queen’s University researcher Judith Irwin (Physics, Engineering Physics, Astronomy) is leading the international project, called Continuum HAloes in Nearby Galaxies -- an EVLA Survey (CHANG-ES).  Dr. Irwin explains that no one has seen such dramatic large and regular magnetic fields around a spiral galaxy before. 

This particular galaxy was studied by CHANG-ES member, Dr. Yelena Stein, of the Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum in Germany.  Dr. Irwin says that many CHANG-ES galaxies show significant magnetic fields and, although they have often been neglected in previous studiesher work has revealed they are important. Magnetic fields can push around charged particles, directing how they move and are an integral component in any process that involves such charges.  

“A consequence of this research is that many models, such as ones describing galaxy formation, must include the magnetic fields in order to properly understand the physical processes that are involved.  We see magnetic fields all around us, from biological systems to electronics. Astronomically, from the Earth, to the Sun, to Jupiter, to our local interstellar medium, to star formation, to the halo of our Milky Way -- magnetic fields permeate all these regions.  Although the magnetic fields around an external galaxy may not have direct influence on us, understanding those fields may indeed have direct influence on us.  An example is the magnetic fields around the Earth which protect us from high energy cosmic rays in space. “  

- Dr. Judith Irwin, Physics, Engineering Physics, Astronomy 

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