Magnets are not confined to just our refrigerators; they exist on a grander scale across the universe. The Earth, stars, galaxies, and even the vast spaces between galaxies all possess magnetic fields. As scientists continue to explore different areas of the cosmos, they discover more instances of these magnetic fields. However, the origins of these fields and why they exist have remained elusive, sparking ongoing scientific inquiry.
Recently, a groundbreaking paper was published in the journal Physical Review Letters by researchers from Columbia University. This study offers valuable insights into the source of these enigmatic magnetic fields. The team employed sophisticated models to demonstrate that turbulent plasma can spontaneously generate magnetic fields. Plasma is a unique state of matter commonly found in extremely hot environments, such as the vicinity of the sun. However, it also exists in low-density regions across the universe, like the expansive space between galaxies, which became the focus of the team’s investigation.
Through simulations, the researchers observed that not only can turbulent plasmas create new magnetic fields, but they can also amplify these fields once they come into existence. This finding helps explain how magnetic fields originating on small scales can eventually stretch across vast cosmic distances.
The research was co-authored by astronomy professor Lorenzo Sironi, astronomy research scientist Luca Comisso, and astronomy doctoral candidate Ryan Golant.
Lorenzo Sironi expressed his excitement about the study’s implications, stating that the research allows us to envision the birthplaces of magnetic fields. Even in the most pristine, expansive, and remote corners of the universe, turbulent plasma particles can spontaneously give rise to new magnetic fields. The search for the elusive ‘seed’ that initiates a new magnetic field has been a long one, and this discovery presents new evidence of its original source. Moreover, the study also sheds light on how once born, a magnetic field can grow and expand.