Interstellar magnetic fields play an important role in our galaxy by returning stellar material back out into interstellar space. The magnetic fields are frozen in place within the hot ionized gases of the interstellar medium acting as an additional energy reservoir; the magnetic fields wear several hats regarding the work that needs to be done in our galaxy. However, there is still little known about the all of the roles the ISMF plays. There is a division between large and small scale fields; the former found on the scales of the spiral arms of our galaxy, and the latter found within the interstellar space. The large scale field in the spiral arms is about 2 μG while the small scale random component is about 3 μG.1 This paper will focus on the small scale field, four of the most currently predominant methods used to measure and observe the field, other possible roles of the field, and a short review of the current theories for the origin of the field.
Without the magnetic fields, star formation would occur considerably differently because within the small scale field, charged material is moving about along the field lines via the Lorentz force:
Any charged matter with a perpendicular velocity component to B will have the electromagnetic force imposing a direction change on it. With the parallel component untouched, the magnetic
1. Sun, X. et al. "Radio observational constraints on Galactic 3D-emission models." Astronomy And Astrophysics (2008) 477, no. 2: 12-13.
field lines act as a guiding/steering mechanism. Charged interstellar material can then be herded into or away from masses or protestants. The same steering mechanism as well as particle acceleration effects are note...
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...ozen within its medium would also contort and twist into the rotation. The problem in this theory is that observations do not concur with the expected amount of twisting of the field lines. The dynamo theory, on the other hand, embraces the observed lack of twist as magnetic diffusion that is constantly countered by the activity on the small-scale. Regeneration occurs on the small scale through a process called the alpha-effect. Alpha-effect is the generation of magnetic field perpendicular to the prevailing field by small-scale turbulent, cyclonic motion; the interstellar magnetic field. The dynamo theory still relies on a magnetic field seed which may very well be the primordial magnetic field.9
9. Ferriere, Katia M. “Magnetic Fields in Galaxies: Their Origin and Their Impact on the Interstellar Medium.” Acta Astronomica Sinica vol. 44 (2003): 115-118.
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