On this false color variant of the sharpener infrared image, the two twisted matter layers of the unusual nebula are clearly visible (Image: Mark Morris, UCLA)
Reading There is a mist near the Milky Way Center shaped like the double helix of the DNA molecule. This is what American astronomers discovered on infrared images of the Spitzer telescope. The two strands of the nebula, presumably composed of interstellar gas and dust, are spiraling and writhing around like the strands of a DNA molecule. According to the researchers, this unusual shape is caused by an interaction between the magnetic field near the central black hole and the matter of the nebula. This discovery may help to understand the forces inside our galaxy, comment astronomers. The portion of the double helix nebula seen on the Spitzer photographs is about 80 light years long and is about 300 light-years from Sagittarius A *, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Its axis points towards this center and is oriented perpendicular to the plane of the Milky Way. Thus, it runs parallel to the field lines of a magnetic field that pervades our galaxy and is particularly strong in the center. Such magnetic fields can affect the distribution and orientation of interstellar matter by interacting with the charged particles? a phenomenon which, according to researchers from Mark Morris of the University of California, also underlies the newly discovered helical structure: the matter of the nebula aligns with the magnetic field lines, making them visible.

The unusual twisting of these lines, and thus of the two strands of the nebula, is probably due to a twisting of the field that arises in the immediate vicinity of the black hole. In the process, one has to imagine the field lines as a taut rubber band, one end of which is twisted, study director Morris explains the principle. This rotation then travels along the belt, creating a twist of the rubber wherever it is. The twisting of the field lines is probably due to the so-called circumnuclear disk, a dense ring of gas that circles around the black hole and in which the magnetic field lines are anchored.

According to Morris, this assumption is corroborated by the distance between the individual turns in the fog: at their presumed migration speed of 1, 000 kilometers per second, these turns would have formed at intervals of approximately 10, 000 years? and it is precisely this time that the circumnuclear disc is needed for a complete circumnavigation of the Milky Way Center.

Mark Morris (University of California, Los Angeles): Nature, Vol. 440, p. 308 ddp / science.de? Ilka Lehnen-Beyel advertisement

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