Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Planck reveals magnetic fingerprint of our galaxy


The team—which includes researchers from the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) at the University of Toronto—created the map using data from the Planck Space Telescope. Since 2009, Planck has charted the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), the light from the Universe a mere 380,000 years after the Big Bang.

But Planck also observes light from much closer than the farthest reaches of time and space. With an instrument called the High Frequency Instrument (HFI), Planck detects the light from microscopic dust particles within our Galaxy. (The density of this dust is incredibly low; a volume of space equal to a large sports stadium or arena would contain one grain.)

Planck's HFI identifies the non-random direction in which the light waves vibrate—known as polarization. It is this polarized light that indicates the orientation of the field lines.

"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," says team member Prof. Douglas Scott (UBC). "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."

For example, the magnetic field governs the coupling of the motions of gas and dust between stars, and so plays a role in star formation and the dynamics of cosmic rays.

"And now," says Scott, "Planck has given us the most detailed picture of it yet."

The "fingerprint" and other results are described in four papers to released May 6 (links below) and to be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Prof. Peter Martin (CITA) uses Planck data to study the dust found throughout our Galaxy. According to Martin, "Dust is often overlooked but it contains the stuff from which terrestrial planets and life form. So by probing the dust, Planck helps us understand the complex history of the Galaxy as well as the life within it."

Also, for cosmologists studying the origin and evolution of the Universe, data to be released later this year by scientists from the Planck collaboration should allow astronomers to separate with great confidence any possible foreground signal from our Galaxy from the tenuous, primordial, polarized signal from the CMB. In March 2014, scientists from the BICEP2 collaboration claimed the first detection of such a signal.

The Planck data will enable a much more detailed investigation of the early history of the cosmos, from the accelerated expansion when the Universe was much less than one second old to the period when the first stars were born, several hundred million years later.

And according to Prof. J. Richard Bond (CITA), "These results help us lift the veil of emissions from these tiny but pervasive Galactic dust grains which obscure a Planck goal of peering into the earliest moments of the Big Bang to find evidence for gravitational waves created in that epoch, as reported by BICEP2."


Planck includes contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The CSA funds two Canadian research teams that are part of the Planck science collaboration, and who helped develop both of Planck's complementary science instruments, the High Frequency Instrument (HFI) and the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI). Professors J. Richard Bond of the University of Toronto (Director of Cosmology and Gravity at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research) and Douglas Scott of the University of British Columbia lead the Canadian Planck team, which includes members from the University of Alberta, Université Laval and McGill University.


Professor Peter Martin
Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics
University of Toronto
p: 416-978-6840

Professor Douglas Scott
Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of British Columbia
p: 604-822-2802

Professor J. Richard Bond
Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics
University of Toronto
p: 416-978-6874

Brian Lin
Senior Media Relations Specialist, Public Affairs Office
The University of British Columbia
p: 604-822-2234
cell: 604-818-5685

Chris Sasaki
Communications Coordinator
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
University of British Columbia
p: 416-978-6613

Brian Lin | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Astronomy Astrophysics CITA Frequency Galaxy Universe emissions motions phenomena waves

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons
20.03.2018 | ITMO University

nachricht Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions
20.03.2018 | University of California - Berkeley

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>