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Magnetic fields forever: LANL astophysicist battles a mystery

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By Roger Snodgrass

A distinguished colleague, Stirling Colgate, once called him “Mr. Magnetic Fields in the Universe,” and Philip Kronberg continues to live up to that reputation.

Monday, Los Alamos National Laboratory announced Kronberg’s participation in a newly published paper that has turned around another theory about magnetic fields.

The findings, published as a letter in the journal Nature July 17, strengthen the idea that galactic magnetic fields have not grown up over billions of years, as some have thought, but were there from an early age.

A paper co-authored by Kronberg in 2004, in the Journal of the Korean Astronomical Society notes that cosmic magnetic fields – beyond localized phenomena associated with individual stars – were predicted nearly 60 years ago, and then confirmed in 1989.

Last year, Kronberg was part of a team using the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico that found a cloud of high-energy plasma 300 million light years away. The enormous object, 80 times wider than the Milky Way, is known as Region A, and is thought to be a vast repository of magnetized material that streamed out on jets emerging from black holes.