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A New Era of Measuring Magnetic Fields in Galaxies

Presentation #101.01 in the session “Fred Kavli Plenary Lecture”.

Published onJun 18, 2021
A New Era of Measuring Magnetic Fields in Galaxies

Although magnetic fields are often described as “invisible forces,” the detection of magnetic fields in galaxies over the past few decades has shown how ubiquitous they are in the universe. Using radio polarimetric observations, we know that galaxies have large-scale magnetic fields along the spiral arms and above the galactic planes as a consequence of galaxy formation and turbulence-driven dynamos. Our team has now revealed a new comprehensive picture of extragalactic magnetism by doing what only the High-resolution Airborne Wide-band Camera (HAWC+) onboard the 2.7-m Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) can do: measure magnetic fields in the dense interstellar medium (ISM) of galaxies, where star formation takes place and where turbulent and magnetic fields are in close equipartition. We have recently shown that the radio and far-infrared polarization observations do not necessarily trace the same magnetic field structure. Rather, magnetic fields in galaxies are affected by star formation activity, the multi-phase and turbulent ISM, and galaxy interaction. This talk will present the newest results of our SOFIA Legacy Program, which combines radio and far-infrared polarimetric observations to make “visible” the fact that magnetic fields are a main component in understanding galaxy evolution.


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