New study reveals the universe’s strongest magnetic fields

Credit: Roger Stoutenburgh and Jen Abramowitz/Brookhaven National Laboratory.

In a groundbreaking study conducted by the STAR team at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, located at Brookhaven National Laboratory, scientists have discovered traces of what could be the most intense magnetic fields ever produced in the universe.

This finding sheds light on the behavior of nuclear matter when it’s freed from its usual confines inside atomic particles.

At the heart of this research is the study of quark-gluon plasma (QGP), a state of matter believed to have existed just after the Big Bang.

This plasma consists of quarks and gluons, the fundamental particles that make up protons and neutrons, released from their bonds by high-energy collisions of atomic nuclei.

The investigation focused on the effects of these immense magnetic fields, generated during collisions of nuclei that don’t hit head-on but rather glance off each other.

When these nuclei, made up of positively charged protons and neutral neutrons, collide at nearly the speed of light, they’re expected to create a magnetic field billions of times stronger than any magnetic field observed in the universe today, including those surrounding the dense neutron stars or even the mild magnetic field that protects our planet.

Observing such fleeting magnetic fields directly is beyond our current capabilities, as they last for only a fraction of a second. Instead, the scientists looked for signs of these fields in the aftermath of the collisions.

They noticed that charged particles emerging from these collisions moved in ways that could only be explained by the presence of a magnetic field influencing their paths.

This behavior of charged particles, bending in the presence of a magnetic field, is a classic example of how electromagnetic forces work.

However, observing this on the scale of quark-gluon plasma offers a new perspective on the properties of these fundamental particles and the forces that act upon them.

The STAR team’s method involved tracking how pairs of differently charged particles were deflected as they came out of the collisions.

Their observations confirmed the presence of an electromagnetic field, a direct result of the magnetic fields created by the collisions. This phenomenon, known as Faraday induction, indicates that the quark-gluon plasma itself can conduct electricity.

This discovery is significant for several reasons. It not only confirms the existence of these ultra-strong magnetic fields but also provides a new method to study the electrical properties of the quark-gluon plasma.

By understanding how charged particles move within this plasma, scientists can infer its electrical conductivity. This, in turn, can help answer fundamental questions about the nature of the universe and the behavior of its most basic components under extreme conditions.

Additionally, the study’s findings have implications for understanding how the universe’s building blocks, like protons and neutrons, form from quarks and gluons.

The magnetic and electromagnetic properties observed could influence the process by which these particles combine to form the matter that makes up our world and everything in it.

This research opens up new avenues for exploring the properties of quark-gluon plasma and the fundamental forces that govern the behavior of matter under extreme conditions.

It also highlights the importance of indirect observation and creative scientific thinking in uncovering the mysteries of the universe.

The research findings can be found in Physical Review X.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.