Mysterious Strands Found at the Heart of Milky Way Galaxy

by Courtney Blackann

The universe if full of mysteries scientists are still studying to understand. There’s so much out there we just don’t have answers for. One of the perplexing, yet stunning, of these is the Milky Way. Years ago, scientists discovered strange magnetic strands near the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

According to CNN, there are nearly one thousand of these spiderweb-like strands at the galaxy’s center. A new telescope image is allowing us to see the strands more clearly in order to study them. Apparently, they stretch 150 lightyears and don’t appear to be in any specific order. Some are long like strings while others wrap around in rings.

While we’ve been aware of the strands’ presence, scientists still don’t know their origin. A professor at Northwestern University who teaches physics and astronomy was the very first to discover the strange phenomena 35 years ago. At that time, Farhad Yusef-Zadeh discovered that the strands were made up of cosmic ray electrons which moved their magnetic fields at the speed of light.

Using a South African Radio Astronomy Observatory MeerKAT telescope, scientists are now discovering even more of these hovering near the center of the Milky Way.

“We have studied individual filaments for a long time with a myopic view,” said Yusef-Zadeh in a statement. He and his team head up the research with Yusef-Zadeh being the lead.

He goes on to add that:

“Now, we finally see the big picture — a panoramic view filled with an abundance of filaments. Just examining a few filaments makes it difficult to draw any real conclusion about what they are and where they came from. This is a watershed in furthering our understanding of these structures.”

The new images were captured over the course of three years from 20 observation points. With the powerful telescope, scientists are also able to see exploded stars as well as star births and other details. However, they are focusing their attention on the strands.

“It’s like modern art,” Yusef-Zadeh said. “These images are so beautiful and rich, and the mystery of it all makes it even more interesting.”

Cause of Strands at Milky Way’s Center

Further, the researchers believe that the strands are caused by past activity involving the supermassive black hole, which lies at the center of the Milky Way. Additionally, the strands are a few million years old.

Taking into account all the variations within the strands, Yusef-Zadeh says that his team must study them across the board to look for commonalities.

“If you were from another planet, for example, and you encountered one very tall person on Earth, you might assume all people are tall,” Yusef-Zadeh said. “But if you do statistics across a population of people, you can find the average height. That’s exactly what we’re doing. We can find the strength of magnetic fields, their lengths, their orientations and the spectrum of radiation.”

He also says, “Every time we answer one question, multiple other questions arise. How do you accelerate electrons at close to the speed of light? One idea is there are some sources at the end of these filaments that are accelerating these particles.”

The scientists team will continue to study the strands as he says learning about these things will “take time” to fully understand.