They write about the specifics of their work in the pages Science advances. The paper’s authors explain how shock waves travel through the various galaxy clusters and cosmic filaments that form a giant web. For a long time it was not known under what circumstances this was happening.
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The recorded radio broadcast is the first observational evidence that accelerated particles, which take the form of these shock waves, do indeed exist in the universe. In previous efforts, similar shock waves were only observed in conjunction with head-on collisions of galaxy clusters. However, they also appear to form within smaller clusters of galaxies or cosmic filaments.
As you can probably imagine, receiving such signals is not an easy task. Very sensitive instruments are needed to record shock waves. The aurorae from the shock waves are very diffuse, and the galaxies themselves often “mask” the events taking place. All kinds of interference in the form of radio noise, which can be emitted by the telescopes themselves, also turns out to be a problem.
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Turns out, the key to success in this case is the way it’s called stacking. It involves averaging images of several objects that are too dim to be seen separately. Thanks to this approach, the impact of noise on the observations made can be reduced. The first effects were observed as early as 2020, but then members of the research team were unable to determine whether they were actually dealing with signals from magnetic fields.
However, more efficient tools are still required, as stacking has proven insufficient in the face of highly polarized radio afterglows. Fortunately, the creativity of scientists did not end there. They designed an experiment that uses maps of polarized radio light to identify the sources of the signals. Under these conditions, the places where the shock waves originated were traced.
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What practical benefits can representatives of the world of science talk about in connection with the discoveries made? It’s all about advances that have to pay off in understanding the magnetism of the universe – especially on massive scales, including galaxy clusters and other structures a light-year away. One thing is certain: the mysteries of the universe abound, but scientists continue their efforts to discover them. New tools play an important role in solving stacking puzzles. It was thanks to them that it became possible to detect gravitational waves, for example, for the first time, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.
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