The apple falls from the tree because gravity obeys the exact laws on our planet. We feel sleepy after eating rice as it helps in releasing calming hormones in our body. In nature, everything is organized and in place. But sometimes, it likes to throw a spanner in the works, seemingly just to mess with puzzled scientists who are brave enough to study natural law.
That’s what’s happening with a particularly cheeky galactic cluster called Abell 3266, whose latest bizarre nudge has astronomers and physicists tearing their hair out and sifting through their books to find some explanation for its strange behavior. I have scrambled.
But before we get into the complex (and grand) cosmic disturbances that these galactic clusters are, let’s try to understand it in terms that everyone is extremely familiar with: Fossils!
Fossils of Ancient Cosmic Cities
We know that dinosaurs and other flora existed long before us because they left solid evidence that we could study. Just as we can date these ancient fossils to determine how old they were, scientists also use similar techniques to study the radio emissions of dark supermassive holes dying in space, which are essentially the “fossils” of these magnificent cosmic behemoths.
Radio emission is a type of “invisible” light emitted by celestial objects that radio astronomers study to understand their composition and age, among other things. Its study reveals some of the universe’s most surprising and well-kept mysteries, such as the origin of the Big Bang through the study of the infamous Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation.
Much of what makes up a cluster is plasma – a chaotic state of matter that forms when gas is heated to 10 million degrees Celsius. When radio waves are generated through this plasma, certain known patterns emerge, which scientists classify to gain insight into the galactic environment.
So what’s up with the Abel 3266?
While the finer details of many of these radio remnant colliding clusters and supermassive black holes are still elusive to us, their mere existence gives us fundamental answers to some common questions. If there is a shadow, we know that something opaque exists to cast it. But Abell, a group 800 million light-years away, was already an enigma because, despite meeting all the conditions, it cast no cosmic shadow!
The cluster did not contain any detectable radio residues until recently. And when Australian scientists tried to study it using the combined power of more than three different powerful satellite arrays, they noticed that some extremely elusive emissions challenged what they had previously thought.
Radio emissions emanating from one part of the cluster produced a sonic boom-like arc, possibly powered by a shockwave traveling through plasma from some large cosmic scruff. However, its highly unusual concave shape astonished radio scientists, as they had never seen anything like it before. In addition, its strange orientation away from the center of the cluster earned it the nickname “mis-way remnant”.
“If it’s a shock wave, you might think it would bend like an arc around the edge, but it’s flipped around,” explained Dr. Tessa Wernstrom, one of the astrophysicists behind the study. . “So we don’t really understand what he’s telling us”.
A new kind of science?
Dr. Wernstrom says his team thinks it’s real, and is probably not at fault from the image processing. Furthermore, the unexpected brightness of the remains also meant that there were massive gaps in understanding the behavior of these radio fossils, and scientists had to go back to the drawing board to make an explanation.
“Maybe there’s some kind of new physics going on that we don’t fully understand when our models can’t match the observations,” she said.
Colliding galaxy clusters, like those in Abell 3266, are spooky places in space that stun scientists with excitement, but also make their bones rattle. These environments contain so much plasma and dark matter activity that they produce a wide variety of data that would otherwise be impossible to collect in a laboratory.
Abell 3266, in particular, is a special cluster because it has many anomalies and rare events that are absent from most other observed clusters, or have not yet been detected. However, it also serves as a testament to the growing power of radio telescopes and the exciting opportunity to study the rest of the universe.
“By looking at the radio, you see a different kind of physics than you see at other wavelengths,” explains Dr. Wernstrom. “We’re going to see a lot of things like this.”
research was published in Monthly Notice of the Royal Astronomy Societyand can be accessed here.
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