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Astro & GW Colloquium

A new era in the study of interstellar magnetic fields

Speaker: Dr Marta Alves (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Date: Wednesday 20 February 2019
Time: 16:00
Venue: Queens Buildings N/3.28

Magnetism is a fundamental force of nature. Since interstellar magnetic fields were discovered in our Galaxy in 1949, it has been established that magnetism is pervasive in the Universe. Planets, stars, and galaxies all show the presence of magnetic fields, which span a large range in strength and change considerably in structure. Throughout the years we have inferred the properties of Galactic magnetic fields from a variety of observational methods. Not only from observations but also from a theoretical point of view, it became clear that magnetic fields are a vital constituent of the interstellar medium, playing a critical role in the lifecycle of matter. In this talk I will start by reviewing the main properties of interstellar magnetic fields that we have derived using four observational methods - I will discuss the properties of the magnetic field on large Galactic scales down to tens of parsecs around the Sun, i.e. in the local interstellar medium. I will then present a new observational method, called Faraday tomography, which is now being applied to recent low-frequency polarimetric data, e.g. from LOFAR. This method is revolutionising our view of the interstellar medium, as it is revealing structures that we have never seen before. The challenge is on. While still digging into LOFAR observations, we are already looking ahead to SKA, which will certainly give us some answers and, most of all, bring new questions!