Galactic magnetism


A new simulation of spiral galaxies offers new understanding of how the Milky Way formed.


A map of magnetic field strength in the Milky Way.
Present-day magnetic field strength in a Milky Way-like galaxy. Streamlines indicate the direction of the magnetic field lines.
Robert J. J. Grand, Facundo A. Gomez, Federico Marinacci, Ruediger Pakmor, Volker Springel, David J. R. Campbell, Carlos S. Frenk, Adrian Jenkins and Simon D. M. White.

In an epic feat of computational physics requiring thousands of processors, terabytes of data, and months of computer time, researchers at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) in Germany have run 30 of the most detailed simulations yet of the formation of galaxies like our own.

The modelling is fiercely complex, as each galaxy contains hundreds of millions of stars and untold amounts of interstellar gas and dust, and the simulation must include detailed calculations of phenomena such as star formation, gas hydrodynamics, supernova explosions and gravity. The HITS simulations are notable for being among the most high-resolution ever made, and also the first to fully incorporate the effects of the magnetic fields that permeate the galaxy.

The research is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Curated content from the editorial staff at Cosmos Magazine.
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