Dynamos and cosmic magnetic fields

Russell Kulsrud, Steve C. Cowley, Andrei V. Gruzinov, R. N. Sudan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


This paper discusses the origin of the galactic magnetic field. The theory of the mean field dynamo in the interstellar medium is reviewed and shown to be flawed because it ignores the strong amplification of small-scale magnetic fields. An alternative origin is offered. It is proposed that the galactic fields are created in the protogalaxy by protogalactic turbulence. It is shown that they are first created from zero by the turbulence through the Biermann battery mechanism. The resulting weak seed fields are then amplified by the dynamo action of the protogalactic turbulence up to a field strength adequate for a primordial field origin of the galactic magnetic field. It is suggested that the amplification of the small-scale fields, that are a problem for the interstellar origin, are suppressed in the protogalaxy by collisionless processes that act on scales smaller than the mean free path. Since the relative size of the mean free path is quite large in the protogalaxy, the dynamo would generate only large-scale fields. After compression this field could become the galactic field. It is possible that no further amplification of it need occur in the interstellar medium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-226
Number of pages14
JournalPhysics Report
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Apr 1997
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


  • Batteries
  • Galaxy
  • MHD dynamos
  • Protogalaxy


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