Professor Daniel Wang of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst conducted a study that led to the discovery of an interstellar phenomenon at the center of the Milky Way- magnetic reconnection. It directs the energy flow of our galaxy and can influence its evolution. The presence of this mechanism is indicated by the X-ray flux G0.17-0.41 detected during observations.
10 Things you need to know about the newly-discovered phenomenon in the Milky Way
1. According to Professor Wang, the galaxy resembles an ecosystem. Despite the fact that the Earth is relatively close to the center of the Milky Way, scientists cannot observe it even with the most powerful telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope. The visibility is obstructed by a thick fog of gas and dust.
2. Wang decided to go the other way and used the Chandra space telescope. It is a NASA-owned observatory that explores space in the X-ray range. Chandra was launched in 1999 and is the third of 4 Great Observatories, along with Hubble, Compton, and Spitzer.
3. The peculiarity of X-rays is that they can pass through such nebulae. Thanks to this, Wang discovered a new phenomenon, described as a pair of radiation plumes exiting from a zone near a supermassive black hole (Sagittarius A *) in the center of the Milky Way.
4. The scientist was even more attracted by the filament G0.17-0.41, in which radio and X-rays are intertwined. This is a previously undetected interstellar mechanism that could be behind the evolution of our galaxy and other similar regions in the universe.
5. New discoveries have led to the conclusion that the magnetic field is reconnecting in this area. Magnetic reconnection is a phenomenon during which magnetic field lines from multiple domains meet at one point and quickly rearrange.
6. Previously, scientists already knew that the reconnection of magnetic lines leads to the heating of the solar atmosphere, as well as the appearance of the aurora.
7. Now the researchers have come to the conclusion that magnetic line reconnection is also present in interstellar space. It takes place at the outer edges of the trails emanating from the galactic center.
8. Scientists believe that filaments like G0.17-0.41 may hold the answers to the physics behind this new phenomenon in the Milky Way.
9. How energy is formed and transferred, what is its general flow, and the effect of this process on the galaxy – these are the main questions that reveal the history of the Milky Way.
10. In order to study the center of the Milky Way and its incredible secrets like the new interstellar phenomenon, scientists propose a multi-wavelength approach in combination with new simulations, both computer and theoretical. Once we have a better understanding of our own galaxy, scientists can focus on similar regions in the universe.
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• Phys.org. (2021, May 27). Astronomer reveals never-before-seen detail of the center of our galaxy.
• Starr, M. (n.d.). This Startling Image of Our Galaxy’s Center Hints at a New Cosmic Phenomenon. ScienceAlert.
• Wang, Q. D. (2021, April 27). Chandra large-scale mapping of the Galactic Centre: probing high-energy structures around the central molecular zone. OUP Academic.