March 28, 2023


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The extraordinary story of a galaxy far, far away. There were a hundred of them, and only one is left

In total, the cluster in question must contain at least a hundred galaxies. However, the reality is very different: 3C 297 is completely alone in its neighborhood. The astronomers behind the publication are available at Astrophysical JournalThey have an idea about it.

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In their research, the researchers used the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which is capable of detecting high-energy radiation. In this case, it came from the aforementioned galaxy containing a quasar, a compact source of continuous electromagnetic radiation in the form of a supermassive black hole. This body absorbs matter which, due to friction, heats up and emits very bright light.

In addition, jets traveling at close to the speed of light can be shot out from the vicinity of the black hole’s poles. It is formed from matter orbiting around the black hole’s event horizon, accelerating along magnetic field lines toward the poles. From there the jets are ejected into intergalactic space. A similar scenario is implemented in the case of 3C 297.

Analysis of one of the jets indicates that it must have interacted with gas in the medium within the cluster, while the other created an X-ray source 140,000 light-years from the galaxy. There, it would have collided with the gas and heated it, which in turn led to emissions. Large deposits of this superheated gas have also been found around 3C 297.

The cluster of galaxies of which only 3C 297 is left has mysteriously disappeared

Looking at the evidence collected, scientists have concluded that there must be a group of galaxies in this region, and not a single such object. This, in turn, suggests that 3C 297 may have consumed its companions. A merger has occurred, as the individual galaxies that made up the cluster merge into one, much larger galaxy.

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Since 3C 297 dates back so long, it is very early evidence for such mergers. And to the surprise of scientists, it happened earlier than they thought. One of the many unknowns in this case is how such events occurred only 4.6 billion years after the Big Bang. Although the results obtained so far do not contradict the basic assumptions of space science, they undoubtedly change the time boundaries that cover the formation of the first galaxies and clusters and the occurrence of their mergers. As you can see, the universe still has many surprises for us. The comforting truth is that the world of science has better and better tools to solve these mysteries.