Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Origin of enigmatic Galactic-center filaments revealed

03.06.2004


Twenty years ago, astronomers discovered a number of enigmatic radio-emitting filaments concentrated near the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. These features initially defied explanation, but a new study of radio images of the Galactic center may point to their possible source.


Combined VLA and GBT image (green) of the Galactic center, with red inset of GBT data only (red). Bright region on right is location of supermassive black hole. Linear filaments are visible above this area.
CREDIT: NRAO/AUI/NSF Yusef-Zadeh, et.al.


By combining data from the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array (VLA) and Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), astronomer Farhad Yusef-Zadeh of Northwestern University has found evidence that at least some of the filaments spring from the concentrated star-formation regions that populate the Galactic center.

Yusef-Zadeh presented his findings June 1 at the Denver, Colo., meeting of the American Astronomical Society. William Cotton of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Va., and William Hewitt of Northwestern University also contributed to this research.

"Astronomers have long puzzled over the cause of these striking features," said Yusef-Zadeh, professor of physics and astronomy, "and the turbulent nature of the Galactic center has made detailed analysis difficult. With new multi-wavelength radio images of the Galactic center, however, we can finally see a link between areas of starburst activity and these long-linear filaments."



The filaments, which range from 10 to 100 light-years in length and are perhaps little more than 1 to 3 light-years across, occur only in a very narrow area, within approximately two degrees of the Galactic center (which translates to approximately 900 light-years across.)

Early theories about the origin of these filaments suggested that they were somehow related to the Milky Way’s own magnetic field. This was due to the fact that the first filaments detected were oriented perpendicular to the plane of the Galaxy, which would have aligned them with the Galaxy’s own magnetic field.

"The problem with this hypothesis is that more recent images have revealed a population of weaker filaments oriented randomly in relation to the plane of the Galaxy," said Yusef-Zadeh. "This makes it difficult to explain the origin of the filaments by an organized Galactic magnetic field."

In March and June of 2004, a team of astronomers using the GBT made images of the Galactic center at various wavelengths. The purpose of these surveys was to help identify radio features produced by hot gas (thermal emission) and those produced in magnetic fields (non-thermal emission). In general, thermal features radiate more strongly at shorter wavelengths and non-thermal at longer wavelengths.

By comparing the GBT images with earlier VLA data taken of the same region, Yusef-Zadeh determined that a number of the non-thermal filaments seemed to connect to concentrated areas of thermal emission, which identify pockets of star formation.

"What this showed us is that two seemingly disparate processes, thermal and non-thermal radio emission, can be created by the very same phenomenon," said Yusef-Zadeh. "In this case, that phenomenon is pockets of starburst activity."

Yusef-Zadeh notes that the exact mechanism for how the areas of starburst generate the magnetic fields is still being investigated. "There are many ideas about the mechanism that generates these filaments," added Yusef-Zadeh, "but one possibility is that they are produced by the collision of winds blown off from individual stars."

The star-forming regions associated with the filaments may contain about 100 massive stars each.

The center of the Milky Way Galaxy is shrouded from optical telescopes by dense clouds of dust and gas. Radio telescopes, however, are able to pierce through the optical veil and see the features within. Concealed at the very heart of our Galaxy is a supermassive black hole. Known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced A-star), this area is a very powerful source of radio waves and was first detected by Karl Jansky in 1932.

While the VLA can image fine-scale structures with great precision, it can not always detect extended radio emission. The GBT, however, can help fill in the gaps. Together, they create a more complete image than either instrument could produce separately.

"The ability to combine the data from the two telescopes," said Cotton, "gives us a very powerful tool for understanding how the smallest features relate to the overall structure. This is particularly important when you want to study an area like the center of our Galaxy."


###
In addition to Yusef-Zadeh, Hewitt and Cotton, the GBT survey was conducted by Casey Law and Douglas Roberts of Northwestern University; and Ron Maddalena of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

The VLA is a single radio telescope made up of 27 separate antennas located on the Plains of San Agustin near Socorro, N.M. The GBT is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, and it is located in Green Bank, W.Va. Both telescopes are operated by the NRAO.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc .

Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu/
http://www.nrao.edu/pr/2004/filaments/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top
20.04.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

nachricht New record on squeezing light to one atom: Atomic Lego guides light below one nanometer
20.04.2018 | ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences

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: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>