Statistical Properties of the Population of the Galactic Center Filaments: The Spectral Index and Equipartition Magnetic Field

F. Yusef-Zadeh, R. G. Arendt, M. Wardle, I. Heywood, W. Cotton, F. Camilo

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10 Scopus citations


We present high-pass-filtered continuum images of the inner 3. 5 2. 5 of the Galactic center at 20 cm with 6.″4 resolution. These mosaic images are taken with MeerKAT and reveal a large number of narrow filaments, roughly an order of magnitude increase in their numbers compared to past measurements. For the first time, we carry out population studies of the spectral index and magnetic field of the entire region. The mean spectral indices of the filaments are steeper than supernova remnants (SNRs) (-0.62) with a value of α ∼ -0.83. The variation in α is much larger than for the SNRs, suggesting that these characteristics have a different origin. A large-scale cosmic-ray-driven wind has recently been proposed to explain the origin of filaments and the large-scale 430 pc bipolar radio and X-ray structure. This favors the possibility that the large-scale bipolar radio/X-ray structure is produced by past activity of Sgr A∗ rather than a coordinated burst of supernovae. A trend of steeper indices is also noted with increasing distance from the Galactic plane. This could be explained either by synchrotron cooling or weak shocks accelerating cosmic-ray particles in the context of the cosmic-ray-driven wind. The mean magnetic field strengths along the filaments range from ∼100 to 400 μG depending on the assumed ratio of cosmic-ray protons to electrons. Given that there is a high cosmic-ray pressure in the Galactic center, the large equipartition magnetic field implies that the magnetic filed is weak in most of the interstellar volume of the Galactic center.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL18
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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