Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energys Los Alamos National Laboratory believe that magnetic field lines extending a few million light years from galaxies into space may be the result of incredibly efficient energy-producing dynamos within black holes that are somewhat analogous to an electric motor. Los Alamos researchers Philipp Kronberg, Quentin Dufton, Stirling Colgate and Hui Li today discussed this finding at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Albuquerque, N.M.
By interpreting radio waves emanating from the gigantic magnetic fields, the researchers were able to create pictures of the fields as they extended from an object believed to be a black hole at the center of a galaxy out into regions of intergalactic space. Because the class of galaxies they studied are isolated from other intergalactic objects and gas - which could warp, distort or compress the fields - the fields extend a distance of up to ten million light years, or about six times 1019 miles.
The energy in these huge magnetic fields is comparable to that released into space as light, X-rays and gamma rays. In other words, the black hole energy is being efficiently converted into magnetic fields. The mechanism is not yet fully understood, but Kronberg and his colleagues believe a black hole accretion disk could be acting similarly to an electric motor.
James Rickman | EurekAlert
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