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This map shows the direction of magnetic fields in the G47 bone over an image of the filament taken by the Herschel Space Observatory. The red and yellow areas are high-density regions of dust and gas. (Image credit: G47: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Ke Wang et al. 2015; Polarization map: Stephens et al., 2021)

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Astronomers have produced the most detailed map yet of the magnetic field within a part of one of the Milky Way’s spiral arms called a galactic bone — a long filament of dense gas and dust that forms down the middle of the arm of a spiral galaxy. The new map reveals a random mess of magnetic lines, contradicting established magnetic properties seen across the rest of the Milky Way’s skeleton. 

The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, and the majority of the galaxy’s stars, as well as the cosmic dust that births them, is concentrated into massive, elongated arms that spin around the galactic center. Each arm has a series of galactic bones running through its center, similar to how humans have bones running through the center of our limbs. The gas and dust within these skeletal filaments are so dense that the bones produce their own magnetic field.

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