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From Catania to the filaments of the Milky Way

From Catania to the filaments of the Milky Way

In the center of the Milky Way, mysterious filaments are observed: they are a thousand and 150 light-years long and may be due to the magnetic fields generated by the black hole in the center of the galaxy. It is monitored for the first time in detail by the powerful MeerKAT radio telescope network, whose data was analyzed in research coordinated by Northwestern University in the US and Cape Town Observatory in South Africa.

The data is published in The Astrophysical Journal. According to the researchers, the filaments detected are traces of magnetic fields produced by the galactic core where there is also a large supermassive black hole, something similar to the magnetic field lines visible when iron dust is placed near a magnet. .

“The new images of the galactic center collected by MeerKAT are unusual and allow for the first time to observe these filaments in unprecedented detail, which can be seen as brushstrokes, which we believe are traces of magnetic fields produced in the galactic core,” says the radio astronomer. Grazia Umana, of the National Institute of Astrophysics (Inaf) a Catania.

The center of our galaxy is a region surrounded by countless large clouds of dust and particles, and precisely because of these properties it is difficult to study and observe. One of the few ways to investigate is by observing radio waves, which are wavelengths that are best able to penetrate interstellar dust. “With MeerKAT, which became fully operational a few months ago, we have for the first time a very powerful instrument for observing the galactic center,” the researcher said. “These images clearly demonstrate this and many other interesting discoveries are about to be published in the coming months.”

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MeerKAT is a network of 64 equivalent poles with a diameter of 13.5 meters, located in the Karoo Desert, South Africa, that was designed as a forerunner of the future SKA (Square Kilometer Array) radio telescope. The improved version, called MeerKAT +, is expected in the next few years, in which Italy also participates, with INAF.