Astronomers Discover Evidence Our Solar System Is In A Magnetic Tunnel

In Brief

  • The Facts:
    • Astronomers out of Canada have discovered our solar system may be surrounded by a magnetic tunnel.

    • The North Polar Spur and the Fan Region once believed to have no relationship could be connecting points for this these rope-like magnetic structures.

  • Reflect On:
    • How awe inspiring that we can continue to expand and discover new things about the Universe.

    • What type of feelings arise in you when you think about how little we may know about the Universe and the future discoveries to come?

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Imagine looking up in the sky and in all directions there are radio waves that look like a magnetic tunnel-like structure surrounding our solar system. A scientist out of the University of Toronto is suggesting that this is exactly what is happening. 

Dr. Jennifer West, an expert in magnetism in galaxies and the interstellar medium, believes that she and her team are potentially the first astronomers to see a connection between the North Polar Spur and the Fan Region, two points in the sky previously believed to have no relationship. 

Image of Jennifer West
from University of Toronto Press Release

After creating a computer modelling system that calculated what the radio sky looks like from earth, West believes there are rope-like structures of charged particles connecting the two points in space. Creating a magnetic tunnel surrounding our solar system. 

Image from University of Toronto Press Release

“If we were to look up in the sky we would see this tunnel-like structure in just about every direction we looked – that is, if we had eyes that could see radio light,”

Jennifer West in press release from University of Toronto

West has been thinking about this research on and off for 15 years, since she first saw a map of the radio sky. The data published in the Astrophysical Journal features Dr. Bryan Gaensler, a professor at the Dunlap Institute who was once a skeptic of West’s idea.

“This is extremely clever work. When Jennifer first pitched this to me, I thought it was too ‘out-there’ to be a possible explanation. But she was ultimately able to convince me! Now I’m excited to see how the rest of the astronomy community reacts.”

Dr. Bryan Gaensler in press release from University of Toronto

The magnetic structures are believed to be 350 light years away from us and 1000 light years long.

Besides the initial excitement of this new discovery and the awe inspiring idea that we as humans will be constantly learning new things about the Universe(s), West is already looking into what this new information means.

“Magnetic fields don’t exist in isolation. They all must connect to each other. So a next step is to better understand how this local magnetic field connects both to the larger-scale Galactic magnetic field, and also to the smaller scale magnetic fields of our Sun and Earth.”

Jennifer West in press release from University of Toronto

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