Magnetic Fields of Galaxies May Affect How Fast Stars Are Born

According to researchers the magnetic fields of galaxies may affect how fast stars are born, by influencing the giant molecular clouds that serve as stellar nurseries. Astronomers know that molecular clouds up to dozens of light-years across have pockets of gas that will form stars when they become dense enough to collapse under their own gravity. Still, much is poorly understood about the precise way in which these stellar nurseries take shape. The researchers reached their findings by studying M33. M33 is about 2.9 million light-years away and has spiral arms similar to those of our own galaxy. Using the Submillimeter Array of radio telescopes in Hawaii, the researchers observed giant molecular clouds in M33’s spiral arms.

By analyzing how the light from these clouds was polarized, they detected how the clouds’ magnetic fields were oriented, and discovered that the fields were aligned with the spiral arms. This suggested that they are being influenced by the galaxy’s magnetic field.