At the risk of turning BLDGBLOG into some sad and unofficial subsidiary of New Scientist, let me point out in any case that “[h]uge loops of gas – similar to those found on the Sun – have been found soaring above the galactic plane near the centre of the Milky Way.”
“The tube-like structures may be responsible for the formation of giant star clusters near the galaxy’s centre and also might be behind the region’s mysteriously powerful magnetic field.”
To quote the article at length:
“I was struck by the loops when I saw them,” says study leader Yasuo Fukui of Nagoya University in Japan. “But it took a few years for me to understand that they represent magnetic loops.” The team believes they formed the way glowing arches, called prominences, do on the Sun – from the stretching and bending of magnetic field lines.
The rest of the story is weirdly fascinating; we read how the “detailed structure and cause of the galaxy’s magnetic field lines are not well understood,” although Fukui’s team has produced a computer model “that can produce gas loops similar to the ones observed.” If we’re to believe the model’s version of the story, then, “small vertical hills in the initially horizontal field lines cause gas to start flowing down into the valleys between them. With less gas at the tops of the hills, the magnetic field there becomes free to expand upwards even more, leading to giant loops.”
The energy involved is extraordinary: for instance, the “observed speed of the gas as it gushes down the sides of the loops… carries roughly the same amount of kinetic energy as is produced in a supernova explosion.”
This immensely powerful magnetized landscape of interstellar gas undergoes turbulence, pooling, waves, and condensation – eventually hitting a point at which stars can form, spooling themselves together gravitationally from loose strands of an ethereal topography. Structured wisps of polarized light soon shine.
There’s a poem – though I can’t seem to find it anywhere now – by John Burnside, which beautifully describes a sort of Christianized cosmology in which the remains of angels have been found hovering in space, titanic, made of color and transparency – and a part of me likes to think that the “glowing arches” and otherwise unexplained astral loops that New Scientist introduces us to are really part of some huge and ongoing theological archaeology of the sky. Mythic remnants: forgotten gods become astro-tectonic structures in space.
One night, a man with a home telescope discovers the chemical ruins of a church the size and shape of whole galaxies, domes of helium and osmium drifting across the outer tangents of the Milky Way – a mobile landscape that survives even universal catastrophe.