Magnetic fields in NGC 1068, or M77, are shown as streamlines over a visible light and X-ray composite image of the galaxy from the Hubble Space Telescope, NuSTAR or the Nuclear Spectroscopic Array, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
The magnetic fields align along the entire length of the massive spiral arms — 24,000 light years across (0.8 kiloparsecs) — implying that the gravitational forces that created the galaxy’s shape are also compressing the its magnetic field.
This supports the leading theory of how the spiral arms are forced into their iconic shape known as “density wave theory.” SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, studied the galaxy using far-infrared light (89 microns) to reveal facets of its magnetic fields that previous observations using visible and radio telescopes could not detect.
Learn more: How to Shape a Spiral Galaxy
Image Credit: NASA/SOFIA; NASA/JPL-Caltech/Roma Tre Univ.Last Updated: Dec. 28, 2020Editor: Yvette Smith