Magnetic support of the optical emission line filaments in NGC 1275
Publication date: 21 Aug 2008
Authors: Fabian, A.C. et al.
Copyright: Nature Publishing GroupThe giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1275, at the centre of the Perseus cluster, is surrounded by a well-known giant nebulosity of emission-line filaments, which are plausibly in excess of 108 years old. The filaments are dragged out from the centre of the galaxy by radio-emitting 'bubbles' rising buoyantly in the hot intracluster gas, before later falling back. They act as markers of the feedback process by which energy is transferred from the central massive black hole to the surrounding gas. The mechanism by which the filaments are stabilized against tidal shear and dissipation into the surrounding extremely hot (4x107 K) gas has been unclear. Here we report observations that resolve thread-like structures in the filaments. Some threads extend over 6 kpc, yet are only 70 pc wide. We conclude that magnetic fields in the threads, in pressure balance with the surrounding gas, stabilize the filaments, so allowing a large mass of cold gas to accumulate and delay star formation.