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Tunnel Of Magnetized Filaments May Enclose Solar System

University of Toronto astrophysicist Jennifer West recently published a paper describing how the solar system is surrounded by a tunnel-like structure of magnetized filaments:

"I was looking at a map of the radio sky on the computer, and it's just like a map of the Earth. If you look at a map of the Earth, we almost always look at it with the equator in the middle.... And it's the same thing when we look at a map of the galaxy. Astronomers usually put the galactic centre in the centre of the map," she said.

"And I thought: What happens to this map if we look at it in a different way, and so put something else at the centre? And when I did that, it became much more evident that these two structures might actually be on either side of us, and opposite sides. And so that is what got me thinking about this picture, that maybe we're inside of something."

Using the computer model, West estimates the North Polar Spur and the Fan Region are located about 350 light years away from Earth, and made up of rope-like structures some 1,000 light years long.

(Via CBC)


(A high-resolution map of the North Polar Spur,
a structure in space only visible through radio telescopes)

We present a simple, unified model that can explain two of the brightest, large-scale, diffuse, polarized radio features in the sky, the North Polar Spur (NPS) and the Fan Region, along with several other prominent loops. We suggest that they are long, magnetized, and parallel filamentary structures that surround the Local arm and/or Local Bubble, in which the Sun is embedded. We show this model is consistent with the large number of observational studies on these regions, and is able to resolve an apparent contradiction in the literature that suggests the high latitude portion of the NPS is nearby, while lower latitude portions are more distant. Understanding the contributions of this local emission is critical to developing a complete model of the Galactic magnetic field. These very nearby structures also provide context to help understand similar non-thermal, filamentary structures that are increasingly being observed with modern radio telescopes.

(Via A Unified Model for the Fan Region and the North Polar Spur: A bundle of filaments in the Local Galaxy)

Science fiction writers have described vast fields of force that enclose the solar system. One of the best-known is Poul Anderson's description of the galactic damping field in his 1953 novel Brain Wave.

However, I'd like to quote here a passage from the incredible 1981 novel Radix by A.A. Attanasio. This novel really blew my mind when I read it that year.

"Over a thousand years ago, the sun and its planets entered a stream of radiation that has no origin. The radiation comes from the axle of our galaxy where the gravity of a billion suns has opened our universe to the multiverse. There, in the galactic core, energy gushes in from an infinity of other realities.

Some of that timeless energy is psynergy, modes of being that you and I would recognize as sentient. When that psynergy reaches earth, it changes the genetic structure of humans, and in a generation or two it becomes voors, distorts, and sometimes godminds. These are beings orphaned from the worlds that created them. They fight hard to hold onto the patterns that anchor them to this planet, because the psynergy-stream is sliding away from us. After the skyfires are gone, there will be no more new voors, no more new godminds. Those that survive will possess the earth."

Update 15-Feb-2022: Another example of this story is Atomic Fire (1931) by Raymond Z. Gallun. A dark nebula envelops the sun and plunges the Earth into darkness; the end is near!

Aggar Ho looked up at his assistant. The grave expression on his face did not change. "We can no longer joke about the Black Nebula, Sark Ahar, my son," he said. "Unless something can be done, it will cause all the inhabitants of Aerth to be frozen to death in thirty-five days."

..."There is no chance for a mistake," returned Aggar Ho. "Here are my figures," and he tapped the pad of paper lying on his desk. "You may take them to your work room and check them if you like. Ever since we began to watch the Black Nebula six months ago I have been afraid. We thought that it would miss the solar system by several billion miles but tonight I have plotted its course. It is going to envelope the sun and blot out its light and warmth! Microscopic observations prove that it is a vast cloud of the heavy opaque gas number 106. When it reaches the sun, it will form a dense layer over its surface. Then there will be darkness."

But plucky scientists create a self-sustaining nuclear reaction, and set the moon on fire, creating a small sun to light the Earth until the sun itself can burn through the nebula's clouds. End update.

Update 10-Apr-2022: The earliest reference to this idea that I know about is the poison space cloud in The Poison Belt, a 1913 novella by Arthur Conan Doyle:

"You will conceive a bunch of grapes," said he, "which are covered by some infinitesimal but noxious bacillus. The gardener passes it through a disinfecting medium. It may be that he desires his grapes to be cleaner. It may be that he needs space to breed some fresh bacillus less noxious than the last. He dips it into the poison and they are gone. Our Gardener is, in my opinion, about to dip the solar system, and the human bacillus will in an instant be sterilized out of existence."

End update.

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