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Magnetic Field Lines in M51
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Magnetic Field Lines in M51

November 4, 2003
The total radio continuum emission from the "whirlpool" galaxy M51 (distance estimates range between 13 and 30 million light years) is strongest at the inner edges of the optical spiral arms, probably due to the compression of magnetic fields by density waves. The vectors give the orientations of the regular magnetic fields as derived from the polarized emission. The field lines follow nicely the optical spiral arms. Unexpectedly, strong polarized emission is observed also between the optical arms which indicates the action of a dynamo. This image was observed with the VLA in its most compact configuration at 6cm radio wavelength (broadband continuum). As the VLA cannot detect the diffuse, large-scale radio emission, data from the Effelsberg 100-m telescope in Germany at the same wavelength was added.