From NASA/DLR SOFIA: “Shaping a Spiral Galaxy”



Dec. 28, 2020
Editor: Yvette Smith

Credit: NASA/SOFIA; NASA/JPL-Caltech/Roma Tre Univ.

Magnetic fields in NGC 1068, or Messier 77, 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.

NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope.

NASA/DTU/ASI NuSTAR X-ray telescope.

SDSS Telescope at Apache Point Observatory, near Sunspot NM, USA, Altitude2,788 meters (9,147 ft).

Apache Point Observatory, near Sunspot, New Mexico Altitude 2,788 meters (9,147 ft).

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

See the full article here .


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NASA SOFIA GREAT [German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies]

NASA SOFIA High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus HAWC+ Camera


SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Hangar 703, in Palmdale, California.