Earth may be trapped inside a giant magnetic tunnel
The proposed giant tunnel is hundred of light years wide, making it big enough to encompass Earth, our solar system, and even nearby stars. (Image credit: Eduard Muzhevskyi via Getty Images)
Our planet, along with the rest of the solar system and some nearby stars, may be trapped inside a giant magnetic tunnel — and astronomers don't know why.
A tube of vast magnetized tendrils, 1,000 light-years long and invisible to the naked eye, may encircle the solar system, astronomers propose in a new paper. Jennifer West, an astronomer at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, made the proposal after an investigation into the North Polar Spur and the Fan Region — two of the brightest radio-emitting gas structures in our galactic neighborhood — revealed that the two structures might be linked even though they are located on different sides of the sky.
"If we were to look up in the sky, we would see this tunnel-like structure in just about every direction we looked — that is, if we had eyes that could see radio light," West said in a statement.
The curving tendrils — which are made of both charged particles and a magnetic field, and resemble long, thin ropes — project outward from the North Polar Spur and the Fan Region. Not only could the strange cosmic ropes link the two regions, but they could form something akin to "a curving tunnel" where the tendrils are like "the lines formed by the tunnel lights and road lane marker," the researchers said.The left image shows a curving tunnel, with the geometry formed by the tunnel's lights and road markings being similar to the geometry of the cosmic tunnel. The right shows the night sky in radio polarized waves, with the filaments annotated with arrows. (Image credit: Left: Pixabay/ Jennifer West. Right: Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory/Villa Elisa telescope/ESA/Planck Collaboration/Stellarium/Jennifer West)