Magnetic field evolution and reversals in spiral galaxies

C. L. Dobbs, D. J. Price, A. R. Pettitt, M. R. Bate, T. S. Tricco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


We study the evolution of galactic magnetic fields using 3D smoothed particle magnetohydrodynamics (SPMHD) simulations of galaxies with an imposed spiral potential.We consider the appearance of reversals of the field, and amplification of the field. We find that magnetic field reversals occur when the velocity jump across the spiral shock is above ≈20 km s-1, occurring where the velocity change is highest, typically at the inner Lindblad resonance in our models. Reversals also occur at corotation, where the direction of the velocity field reverses in the corotating frame of a spiral arm. They occur earlier with a stronger amplitude spiral potential, and later or not at all with weaker or no spiral arms. The presence of a reversal at radii of around 4-6 kpc in our fiducial model is consistent with a reversal identified in the MilkyWay, though we caution that alternative Galaxy models could give a similar reversal. We find that relatively high resolution, a few million particles in SPMHD, is required to produce consistent behaviour of the magnetic field. Amplification of the magnetic field occurs in the models, and while some may be genuinely attributable to differential rotation or spiral arms, some may be a numerical artefact.We check our results using ATHENA, finding reversals but less amplification of the field, suggesting that some of the amplification of the field with SPMHD is numerical.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4482-4495
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Galaxies: ISM
  • Galaxies: magnetic fields
  • ISM: general
  • ISM: magnetic fields

Cite this