Magnetic Fields: Secret Galactic Heroes
Poor magnetic fields. They tend to get overshadowed by bigger, more powerful celestial bodies and phenomena like black holes, colliding galaxies, and the Big Bang. However, this force quite literally hold the galaxy together. Magnetic fields are the true heroes of the galaxy and it’s about time they get the recognition that they deserve.
Magnetic fields are woven through the fabric of our universe. Most of the time, you’ll find them tied to the plasmas from which they are created. Almost all of the matter (except for the dark kind) in our galaxy exists in the form of plasma. So, it’s no surprise that magnetic fields are everywhere!
There are even some extending millions of light years away, connecting galaxies together. These magnetic fields are millions of times weaker than our earth’s own magnetic field, except they stretch much, much farther. It is even possible for multiple galaxies to get tangled up in a single magnetic field resulting in a hundred trillion solar masses of stars, dark matter, and gasses to be bound together. Crazy, right?
Quirks of these Gigantic Magnetic Fields
The strangest thing about these crazy large magnetic fields is that over their light years of expansion, they don’t follow a straight path. This means it’s possible (with a very sensitive compass) to follow a magnetic field line for distances equal to that of the span of a galaxy, before the magnetic field abruptly switches directions.
Where did magnetic fields of this size originate? One of the theories is that these magnetic fields started very small and just grew with the rest of the universe. It all starts with an unmagnetized area of the universe that gets magnetized. How does this happen? One way is that plasma gets zapped by a shock wave, separating the electrons from the ions, generating a current and creating a magnetic field.
Can They Encompass Thousands of Galaxies?
Unfortunately, that field is very weak. We’re talking can’t-open-the-pickle-jar weak. The way to strengthen these fields is through dynamos! However, since dynamos are so small, it doesn’t really answer the question of how the magnetic fields get that large. The answer to this lies in the dynamos that exist around supermassive black holes. They produce intense radiation which is highly magnetized. Is that enough to encompass one thousand galaxies? Unfortunately, scientists don’t know!
We’re big fans of magnetic fields and we hope they finally start getting the recognition that they deserve. Interested in staying on top of all magnet-related news and DIYs? Make sure to check our News & How To’s section. And as always, check out our current selection of magnets on our online catalog here.