Wednesday, September 06, 2023

The Furthest Ever Galactic Magnetic Field Detected | ESO

The Furthest Ever Galactic Magnetic Field Detected | ESO

ESOcast 267 Light: Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have detected the magnetic field of a galaxy so far away that its light has taken more than 11 billion years to reach us. Never before have we detected a galaxy’s magnetic field this far away. This video summarizes the discovery. The field is about 1,000 times weaker than the Earth’s magnetic field, but extends over more than 16,000 light-years. 

To make this detection, the science team searched for light emitted by dust grains in a distant galaxy, 9io9. Galaxies are packed full of dust grains and when a magnetic field is present, the grains tend to align and the light they emit becomes polarized. This means that the light waves oscillate along a preferred direction rather than randomly. When ALMA detected and mapped a polarized signal coming from 9io9, the presence of a magnetic field in a very distant galaxy was confirmed for the first time.

Credits: European Southern Observatory (ESO)

Directed by: Angelos Tsaousis and Martin Wallner

Editing: Angelos Tsaousis

Web and technical support: Gurvan Bazin and Raquel Yumi Shida

Written by: Tom Howarth and Claudia Sciarma

Footage and photos: ESO / Luis Calçada, Angelos Tsaousis, B. Tafreshi (, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), J. E. Geach et al., CFHT, DESI

Scientific consultant: Paola Amico, Mariya Lyubenova

Duration: 1 minute, 30 seconds

Release Date: Sept. 6, 2023

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