August 13, 2022

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The galaxy cluster amazes astronomers and computers.  The discoveries made are hard to explain

The galaxy cluster amazes astronomers and computers. The discoveries made are hard to explain

Scientists have identified a series of rare radio objects in the Abell 3266 galaxy cluster. Their nature is inconsistent with existing theories about their origins, and even their properties.

Galaxies make up only a small percentage of the cluster’s total mass, while the rest is dark matter and gas heated to temperatures above 10,000,000 degrees Celsius. A single cluster can be millions of light-years in diameter and contain hundreds or even thousands of galaxies.

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When the clusters collide, massive amounts of energy are emitted, which drives the hot plasma and emits radio emissions. The latter can be of different shapes and sizes. One was in the shape of an arc and headed toward the shores of the cluster, propelled by shock waves traveling through the plasma. On Earth, a similar phenomenon can be observed when an aircraft crosses the sound barrier.

The galaxy cluster Abell 3266 is located 800 million light-years from Earth

Scientists are also interested in the radio remnants of dead supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. Black holes release massive jets of plasma beyond the confines of the galaxy. When these currents lose momentum, they begin to dissipate. The resulting remains are what are known as radiofrequency fossils.

Detailed results for the Abell 3266 galaxy cluster are shown on pages Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. At 800 million light-years away, it appears to be an ideal area to search for all kinds of rare objects. The problem is that, until recently, none of those were discovered.

The breakthrough in research came thanks to the use of the ASKAP radio telescope and the ATCA radio interferometer. Active power supply regions are highlighted in yellow, while hot plasma, which is observed on waves of X-ray radiation, is highlighted in blue. Red colors indicate objects visible at lower frequencies – these structures are older and have lower energy.

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Most mysterious in all of this was the fact that even advanced physical models did not fit the collected data. For this reason, scientists are trying to fill in the gaps. Thanks to the algorithm, they were able to reduce the sharpness of the main image to search for a very weak, invisible emission with high accuracy. They made the first radio aura detection at Abell 3266.