Video: Active Galactic Nuclei Magnetism

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This simulation video from ORNL shows active galaxy nuclei magnetic field lines about 6 billion years after the Big Bang.

Churning at the heart of roughly one in few thousand galaxies is a supermassive black hole that gobbles matter from a spinning disk of gas and dust. Astronomers call such objects active galactic nuclei, or AGNs, after the powerful jets of radiation they spew. In addition to radiation, AGNs accelerate charged particles that, in turn, generate a magnetic field. Although that magnetism is extremely weak, the simulation above suggests they’re important in shaping the visible universe. “It’s somewhat of a puzzle why [the field lines] are so big and yet so weak,” said astrophysicist Paul Sutter of the University of Illinois, who worked with computer and visualization scientists on the simulation. “But they may play a significant role in affecting galaxy cluster physics.”