Astronomers question their science after distant galaxy emits bizarre radio signals that “go the wrong way”

Astronomers question their science after distant galaxy emits bizarre radio signals that “go the wrong way”

Representative image of the MACS J0717 galaxy cluster

(X-ray: NASA / CXC / SAO / van Weeren et al .; Optical: NASA / STScI; Radio: NSF / NRAO / VLA)

The apple falls from the tree because gravity follows precise rules on our planet. We feel sleepy after eating rice because it helps release the calming hormones in our bodies. In nature, everything is organized and in place. But from time to time, he likes to put the keys in his hand, apparently just to play with puzzled scientists brave enough to study natural law.

This is exactly what is happening with a particularly brazen galactic cluster called Abell 3266, whose latest bizarre whims have caused astronomers and physicists to tear their hair and hastily leaf through their books to find an explanation for its strange behavior.

But before we get into the complicated (and wonderful) cosmic mess that these galactic clusters are, let’s try to understand it in terms that everyone is extremely familiar with: fossils!

The fossils of ancient cosmic cities

We know that dinosaurs and other flora existed long before us because they left tangible evidence behind that we could study. In the way we might date these ancient fossils to determine exactly how old they were, scientists also use similar techniques to study the radio emissions of dying supermassive black holes in space, which are essentially the “fossils” of these magnificent cosmic giants.

Radio emissions are a kind of “invisible” light emitted by celestial bodies that radio astronomers study to understand, among other things, their composition and age. Studying him reveals some of the universe’s most surprising and well-kept secrets, such as the origin of the Big Bang through the study of the infamous cosmic microwave background radiation.

Much of what makes a cluster is plasma, a chaotic state of matter that forms when gas is heated to a 10 million degrees Celsius pipeline. When radio waves are generated through this plasma, some known patterns emerge, which scientists classify to gain insight into the galactic environment.

So what’s going on with Abell 3266?

While the crux of the matter of many of these radio artifacts from colliding clusters and supermassive black holes still remain elusive to us, their mere existence provides us with fundamental answers to a few simple questions. If there is a shadow, we know that there is something opaque to cast it. But Abell, the cluster 800 million light-years away, was already an enigma because, while meeting all the conditions, it cast no proverbial shadow!

The cluster had no detectable radio relics until recently. And when Australian scientists tried to study it using the combined power of more than three powerful arrays of separate satellites, they noticed that some of the extremely elusive emissions defied everything they thought they knew about them.

Radio emissions emanating from one part of the cluster formed a boom-like sonic arc, probably powered by shock waves traveling through the plasma from a huge cosmic mess. However, its extremely unusual concave shape baffled radio scientists, as they had never seen anything like it before. Furthermore, its strange orientation facing away from the center of the cluster has earned it the nickname “wrong relic”.

“If it’s a shock wave, you might think it bends like an arc around the edge, but this is upside down,” explained one of the astrophysicists behind the study, Dr Tessa Vernstrom. “So we don’t really understand what he’s telling us.”

A new kind of science?

Dr Vernstrom adds that her team thinks this is real and likely not an image processing error. Furthermore, the relic’s unexpected brightness also meant that there were huge gaps in understanding the behavior of these radio fossils and that scientists had to go back to the drawing board to formulate explanations.

“Maybe there’s some kind of new physics going on that we haven’t fully understood when our models can’t match observations,” he added.

Colliding galactic clusters, such as some in Abell 3266, are frightening places in space that leave scientists tingling with excitement, but also bring wheeze to their bones. These environments have so much plasma and dark matter activity that they produce a whole variety of data that would otherwise be impossible to collect in a laboratory.

Abell 3266, in particular, is a special cluster because there are tons of anomalies and rare phenomena that are absent from most of the other clusters observed, or simply have not yet been detected. However, this also serves as a testament to the growing power of radio telescopes and the exciting opportunity to study the remaining parts of the universe.

“Looking at the radio, you see a kind of different physics than when you look at other wavelengths,” explains Dr. Vernstrom. “We will see a lot more of this kind of thing.”

The research was published in Royal Astronomy Society Monthly Noticesand can be accessed here.


For updates on weather, science, space, and COVID-19 on the go, download The weather channel app (on Android and iOS stores). It’s free!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.