Astronomers from the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics have led a research team that has helped map the north-sky portion of the Milky Way Galaxy’s magnetic field.
The team used data from the CHIME (long form) telescope to measure the way in which invisible magnetism distorts the radio signals from rapidly spinning stars known as “pulsars.” The magnetism of the northern-sky portion of our Galaxy has previously been underexplored, since many of the world’s powerful radio telescopes are located in the southern hemisphere.
That’s why CHIME’s northern location was key to accessing this data – and so was its non-traditional cylinder design, which allowed the research team to study the signals from 10 different pulsars at any given time.
“I was excited by the diverse potential of CHIME to perform this cutting-edge science,” explains Cherry Ng, Dunlap Institute postdoctoral researcher. “CHIME is really helping to complete the big picture of the Milky Way.”
Ng, along with University of Toronto undergraduate student Ayush Pandhi, are the lead authors of a publication [hyperlinked] that reports their team’s 80 new measurements of Galactic magnetism using background pulsars. This is a 20 per cent increase in the number of measurements that previously existed in the Northern Hemisphere.
Ng says that using pulsars to understand the Milky Way’s magnetic field could have large-scale implications for astronomy. “This will shed light on important questions such as the origin of the Galactic magnetic field and how it influences the behaviour of stars and gas.”
She says that there’s a lot more to do once more data is collected. “The more pulsar signals we can measure, the more complete a picture we can paint of magnetism in the Universe.”
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