A galactic magnetic field in a lab bolsters astrophysical theory

Jan 25, 2012 by Nicole Casal Moore
This composite image shows a laser-produced shock wave on the left side. Brighter colors show the shock region of higher density or temperature. The right side shows a simulation of a shock wave collapsing, as it would have during the pre-galactic phase in the universe. A. Ravasio (LULI), A. Pelka (LULI), J. Meinecke (Oxford), C. Murphy (Oxford), and F. Miniati (ETH).

Why is the universe magnetized? It's a question scientists have been asking for decades. Now, an international team of researchers including a University of Michigan professor have demonstrated that it could have happened spontaneously, as the prevailing theory suggests.

The findings are published in the Jan. 26 edition of Nature. Oxford University scientists led the research.

"According to our previous understanding, any magnetic field that had been made ought to have gone away by now," said Paul Drake, the Henry S. Carhart Collegiate Professor of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences and a professor in physics at U-M. "We didn't understand what mechanism might create a magnetic field, and even if it happened, we didn't understand why the magnetic field is still there.

"It has been a very enduring mystery."

With high-energy pulsed lasers in a French laboratory, the researchers created certain conditions analogous to those in the when were forming. Through their experiment, they demonstrated that the theory known as the Biermann battery process is likely correct.

Discovered by a German astronomer in1950, the Biermann process predicts that a magnetic field can spring up spontaneously from nothing more than the motion of charged particles. Plasma, or charged particle gas, is abundant in space.

Scientists believe that large clouds of gas collapsing into galaxies sent elliptically shaped bubbles of through the early universe, touching off flows of electric current in the plasma of the intergalactic medium.

Anyone who has built an in middle school science class is familiar with this concept, Drake said.

"If you can make current flow, you make a ," Drake said.

The question in was what could have generated the current. This experiment demonstrated that such asymmetrical shockwaves could do the job.

The results, Drake said, aren't particularly surprising. But it's important for scientists to test their theories with experiments.

"These results help strengthen the understanding that we've taken from our interpretation of astrophysical data," Drake said. "And understanding the universe and most definitely the origin of life is one of the great human intellectual quests."

Explore further: ESO image: A study in scarlet

More information: The paper is titled "Generation of scaled protogalactic seed magnetic fields in laser produced shock waves."

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User comments : 10

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PermanentMarker
1 / 5 (11) Jan 25, 2012
At the earliest moments there where no particles or forces we can describe, philosophical speaking there where only sides inside big-bang; and outside. most likely what we can observe is some debris of the broken sides wall, the rest is invisible, a buble with bang what it contained 90% of it has gone, the buble shell is what is left over.
so the most small thing is a side a field of two oposites. and oh my oh my magnetics just behaves like sides.

barakn
5 / 5 (13) Jan 25, 2012
There was no outside of the Big Bang. It was not an explosion WITHIN time and space, it was an explosion OF time and space.
HannesAlfven
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 25, 2012
An important clue to the mystery of interstellar magnetic fields can be observed in the work of radio astronomer, Gerrit Verschuur. Language matters a lot. When we use the term "cloud" to describe the interstellar matter, we are prioritizing theory over observation. Interstellar matter frequently exhibits spaghetti-like filaments and even knots. Laboratory plasma physics offers a helpful framework for understanding what these filaments are. The concept of Marklund convection suggests a laboratory-verified ion sump mechanism which can even replace the dysfunctional gravitational collapse ideas. Furthermore, detailed observations of tokamaks exhibit concentric tubular "skeletal" structures of entrained dust particles. Critical ionization velocities for the universe's most common elements are associated with the cosmic interstellar filaments, suggesting that the cosmic structures are in fact electrical.

Check the assumptions inherent to the cosmic plasma models ...
Callippo
2 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2012
Generation of scaled protogalactic seed magnetic fields in laser produced shock waves
You cannot generate the protogalactic magnetic fields with laser - such title just mixes speculations, observations and experimental analogy.
vega12
5 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2012
Generation of scaled protogalactic seed magnetic fields in laser produced shock waves
You cannot generate the protogalactic magnetic fields with laser - such title just mixes speculations, observations and experimental analogy.

You don't need to go out into a galaxy to learn something about the galaxy. We can measure the effect of gravity using a lab-top Cavendish-like, without having to use full-sized planets. Similarly, you can apply the same physical laws that seem to also work on galactic scales at laboratory scale, and use that knowledge to test some theories. In this case, they were testing whether asymmetrically propagating plasma can spontaneously induce a magnetic field that will persist. You don't need a whole galaxy to do that. Furthermore, this kind of spontaneous symmetry breaking is a natural, re-occurring phenomenon in the physical world we observe, so it's not exactly some outlandish idea.
MLea
not rated yet Jan 26, 2012
Since when Maxwell`s equation became Biermann`s process? Strange these astro-physicists...
qitana
1 / 5 (1) Jan 26, 2012
please my friends, let us not argue any further, it was God that magnetised the universe with a huge magnet
rubberman
not rated yet Jan 26, 2012
please my friends, let us not argue any further, it was God that magnetised the universe with a huge magnet


LMAO!! That's correct! He held the god sized magnet beside the swedish globe that he has encompassed our universe in for display on the table in his study, and once magnetized he put the magnet back into his toolbox beside the angelwing clippers and tottled off to the shop where he is currently working on his biggest project to date, a love letter to Kevin.
Shelgeyr
1 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2012
Discovered by a German astronomer in1950, the Biermann process predicts that a magnetic field can spring up spontaneously from nothing more than the motion of charged particles. Plasma, or charged particle gas, is abundant in space.
...
"If you can make current flow, you make a magnetic field," Drake said.


SUCH music to my ears!

Step by step the facts supporting EU theory become undeniable.
Graeme
not rated yet Jan 26, 2012
The plasma in the interstellar medium is thick enough to block radio waves below about 4 kHz. However what we would be seeing here is electromagnetic phenomena that would vary only on the timescales of thousands if not millions of years. The slower changing magnetic fields could penetrate further into the interstellar medium. This however does not explain where any of the varying fields or currents came from. But perhaps there is some non-linear phenomenon that can convert varying currents, from say a pulsar into a more direct current as in a rectifier. A possible analogs on earth could be the thermionic valve where a hot solid or liquid surface can emit electrons, but not positive ions, so electrons only go from the hot cathode to the cool anode.

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