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U of C Radio Astronomy Group discovers giant magnetic field structure in Milky Way

This June 4, 2016 photo provided by Nils Ribi Photography shows the Milky Way in the night sky at the foot of the Boulder Mountains in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho. Tourists heading to central Idaho will be in the dark if local officials get their way. The nation's first International Dark Sky Reserve will fill a chuck of the sparsely populated region containing night skies so pristine that interstellar dust clouds are visible in the Milky Way. The International Dark Sky Association says the region is one of the few places remaining in the contiguous United States large enough and dark enough to attain reserve status. Nearby towns, county and federal officials and a conservation group are working with the association to submit an application this month to designate 1,400 square miles (3,600 square kilometers) as the reserve that could draw visitors. (Nils Ribi Photography via AP)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — The University of Calgary is getting some international recognition after discovering a giant magnetic field structure in a spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Russell Shanahan and Stephen Lemmer uncovered the previously unknown fingerprint while they worked with data from the international THOR project, a survey of interstellar gas in the Milky Way.

Shanahan is currently a PhD student at the university, while Lemmer was an honours astrophysics undergraduate in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

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It is believed this is the first time this pattern has ever been seen.

The discovery plays an important but not well-understood role in forming stars from clouds of molecular gas and dust.

The area of which the magnetic field was discovered was about 18,000 light-years from Earth.