Milky Way’s Magnetic Fingerprint Revealed

Magnetic field of Milky Way Galaxy as seen by ESA’s Planck Space Telescope. Image credit: ESA / Planck Collaboration.

Light is a very accustomed form of energy and yet several of its properties are unknown to ordinary human understanding. One of these is polarization. Polarization transmits a lots of info about what occurred along a light ray’s track. Light can be termed as a series of waves of electric and magnetic fields. Typically, these pitches can pulsate at all directions. However, if they come about to vibrate differently in definite directions, scientists say the light is polarized.

In space, the light produced by stars, dust and gas can also be polarized in numerous ways. By calculating the quantity of polarization in this light, astrophysicists can study the physical procedures that produced the polarization. Especially, polarization may disclose the reality and properties of magnetic fields in the medium light has gone through. In order to identify the light from minute dust particles inside our Galaxy, researchers from the Planck Collaboration used an apparatus called the High Frequency Instrument fixed on the space telescope.

Team member Prof Douglas Scott from the University of British Columbia, who is also a co-author of four papers give in for journal in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics said: “Just as the Earth has a magnetic field, our Galaxy has a large-scale magnetic field – albeit 100,000 times weaker than the magnetic field at the Earth’s surface. And just as the Earth’s magnetic field generates phenomena such as the aurorae, our Galaxy’s magnetic field is important for many phenomena within it,” 

Similarly, for researchers studying the beginning and evolution of the Universe, data to be released at the end of this year by researchers from the Planck collaboration would allow astrophysicists to distinct any possible foreground indication from our Milky Way Galaxy from the tenuous, primordial, polarized signal from the Cosmic Microwave Background.

In March, astrophysicists from the BICEP2 collaboration claimed the first finding of such a signal. The Planck data will allow a much more thorough investigation of the initial history of the universe, from the accelerated expansion when the Universe was much less than one second old to the time period when the major stars were born, some hundred million years later.

(You can read the published papers here: paper 1, paper 2, paper 3 and paper 4).

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