A new paper has put forward a radical new theory to explain mysterious magnetic structures in the sky.
According to Dr. Jennifer West, Research Associate at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, two enigmatic structures that we see on opposite sides of the sky – the North Polar Spur and the Fan Region – are in fact connected together by a vast cosmic network of magnetic filaments.
These filaments, she argues, form a \’tunnel\’ that encircles the entire solar system.
“If we were to look up in the sky, we would see this tunnel-like structure in just about every direction we looked,” she says. “That is, if we had eyes that could see radio light.”
For decades, scientists have puzzled over the nature of these two structures, however this is the first time that anyone has been able to show that they may in fact be connected together.
“A few years ago, one of our co-authors, Tom Landecker, told me about a paper from 1965, from the early days of radio astronomy,” said West.
“Based on the crude data available at this time, the authors (Mathewson and Milne), speculated that these polarized radio signals could arise from our view of the Local Arm of the galaxy, from inside it.”
“That paper inspired me to develop this idea and tie my model to the vastly better data that our telescopes give us today.”
According to her findings, this huge magnetic \’tunnel\’ in space could be around 1,000 light years across – an estimate that seems consistent with existing data on the interconnected structures.
As things stand her findings require further confirmation, however the results are tantalizing.
“When Jennifer first pitched this to me, I thought it was too \’out-there\’ to be a possible explanation,” said astronomer Bryan Gaensler of the University of Toronto.
“Now I\’m excited to see how the rest of the astronomy community reacts.”