“Completely invisible, but incredibly influential”: NASA explains how spiral galaxies take shape

NASA shared a great photo on Instagram of a galaxy called M77, and offered a brief explanation of how it was “formed.” For a long time, the shapes of many galaxies, including our own Milky Way, have puzzled many scientists. The Milky Way is spiral shaped and has arms full of stars. However, have you ever wondered how it came to be? Well, this is the question that has long puzzled scientists. In its new post, the space agency explained how magnetic fields played a huge role in the formation of different galaxies.

The message is based on research from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA Telescope. In the caption, NASA states that “spiral galaxies like the Milky Way are shaped by magnetic fields” which are “invisible to the human eye”.

But those magnetic fields are made clearer by combining images from the space agency’s Hubble Space Telescope, the nuclear spectroscopic array, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Describing the Instagram post, NASA said, “In this image, scientists have measured magnetic fields along the spiral arms of a galaxy called M77. The fields are represented by current lines which closely follow the circular arms. The magnetic fields line up along the length of the massive spiral arms – 24,000 light years in diameter – implying that the gravitational forces that created the shape of the galaxy are also compressing its magnetic field.

Here is the post:

In a report published on its website in December 2020, NASA said that SOFIA “studied the galaxy using far infrared light (89 microns) to reveal facets of its magnetic fields than previous observations using visible telescopes and radio could not detect “. The report also states that these circular arms derive their shape from what is known as “density wave theory”. This theory suggests that the dust, gas, and stars in the spiral arms are constantly in motion like baggage on a conveyor belt.

According to another December 2019 report on the NASA website, M77 is 47 million light years from Earth. It is located in the constellation Cetus.

At its center, the M77 has a massive black hole, twice the size of the Milky Way’s black hole.



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Travis Durham

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