Screenshot: Cuciti et. The.
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Scientists have discovered massive, unexplained structures in space that stretch across nearly a billion light-years and emit a faint radio glow, according to a new study.
These “megahalos” are made up of energetic particles, but it’s not clear what supercharged massive objects are or how they appear within groups of galaxies known as clusters. Answering these questions will not only reveal the origin of the megalos, but can also shed light on some of the fundamental mysteries of the universe, including details about the cosmic web, the network of large-scale structures made of matter and gas that connects the universe.
Scientists led by Virginia Cossetti, an astrophysicist at the University of Hamburg, discovered four megalos while scanning hundreds of distant galaxy clusters using the LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR), a radio telescope with stations stretching across Europe that are highly sensitive at low frequencies.
The four objects are associated with smaller radio halos, diffuse structures made of electrons traveling at near-light (relative) speeds that have been previously observed in many galaxy clusters. However, megahalos are 30 times and 20 times larger than normal auras.
The researchers said that “the presence of megaluses indicates that outside the limits of radio auras, mechanisms operate that maintain a sea of relativistic electrons” guided by magnetic fields, and added that “the mechanisms responsible for the formation of large-volume sulfate-volume emissions remain unknown,” according to the A study published on Wednesday in temper nature.
“The fact that the full size of galaxy clusters should be full of relativistic particles and magnetic fields was predicted by numerical simulations, so we knew that there should be radio emission at a certain level even at those large scales,” Cuciti said in an email to the panel. the mother. “However, this emission was also expected to be faint, and thus, not surprisingly, was never detected until a new generation of sensitive telescopes like LOFAR came online.”
“While we were analyzing data from one of the groups presented in this study, we saw some important hints of radio emissions at very large scales, so we decided to re-examine all images of a sample of 310 groups we were studying with the goal of looking for similar emissions.” “When we discovered that three other groups of this sample showed emission at similar levels and with similar properties, it became clear that we had discovered a new type of cosmic phenomenon that opens up the possibility of exploring the outer region of galaxy clusters through radio observations.”
Galactic clusters can contain hundreds or thousands of individual galaxies, all of which interact gravitationally with one another, making them one of the most radiant and chaotic environments in the universe. While the brightest parts of the clusters are often clearly visible to telescopes on Earth, even across billions of light-years, little is known about the darker “inter-cluster” spaces found between galaxies in these clusters.
Scientists have discovered radio halos at the center of many galaxy clusters, especially those that are merging together, indicating that electrons are energized by the merging processes, then sculpted into inflated halo structures by strong magnetic fields. The newly discovered megalus has unique properties that suggest a different activation mechanism, possibly related to the perturbation that arises due to the dissipation of gravitational energy in the center of the cluster.
“There is still a lot to understand about megalos,” Cossetti said. More sensitive radio observations are needed in order to reveal the properties of these strange radio sources and to understand whether megaluses are present in only some or most, if not all, galaxy clusters. In this regard, we are confident that the upgrade that LOFAR is undergoing (LOFAR 2.0) will allow us to reach the sensitivity necessary to answer this question.”
“Thanks to these observations, we now have some measurable information about the outer regions of the galaxy clusters,” she continued. “As often happens in astrophysics, simulations will now help. We are planning an extensive campaign of cosmic simulations aimed at reproducing the presence and properties of the Megalos.”
These efforts could yield new insights into the cosmic web, which Cuciti describes as a “complex structure of threads” that stretches across the cosmos. Clusters of galaxies form at the junctions of these filaments, which are made up of gas and a mysterious substance called dark matter. Clusters grow by accumulating matter flowing from the filaments through their dark outer regions, which remain poorly observed. Megahalos has now provided a new way to probe the mysterious edges of clusters.
“The fact that we can probe these regions with megalos means we can get information about how energy is dissipated during large-scale cosmic structure formation and how particles are accelerated in very low-density plasmas,” Cuciti said. “Also, megahalos is an important step forward toward the direct discovery of the large-scale structure of our universe.”
She added: “Usually, the presence of excess densities in the universe, such as filaments, walls and clusters, is inferred by observing galaxies that live in these regions, but here we are moving towards observing the plasma that fills this entire space.” “The ultimate goal is to understand the unique conditions of matter in dense regions of the universe, trace its structure and derive its evolution patterns.”
LOFAR is part of a new generation of ultra-sensitive radio arrays that will revolutionize our view of the universe by detecting exotic objects and mapping the vast cosmic web, among countless other discoveries. Scientists are eagerly awaiting the completion of the most sensitive radio telescope ever built, called the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), which should be operational within the next decade.
“This is really a golden age for radio astronomy,” Cossetti said. “LOFAR opened a new observational window covering the lowest radio frequencies we can observe from Earth (wavelengths from meters to decimeters). The result of this work is just one example of the discoveries that have been made since astronomers began exploring this new region.”
“On the other hand, SKA’s unprecedented international effort will provide the most sensitive and complex radio interferometer (group of radio telescopes working together) ever made by mankind,” she noted. “Among other things, these facilities will cover a wide range of important topics in modern astrophysics such as the study of the primordial universe, the formation of the first stars and black holes, the exploration of still-mysterious dark energy, and the understanding of the origin of magnetic fields in space.”