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There is a mysterious new type of object in space, and after snapping its best picture yet, astronomers are one step closer to understanding these strange celestial spheres.
They are known as individual radio circuits or ORCs. While the idea of ORCs might fascinate the goblin-like humans in the “Lord of the Rings” books, these fascinating objects have baffled scientists since they were first discovered in 2020.
Astronomers discovered the alien radio circuits using Australia’s SKA Pathfinder telescope, operated by the Australian National Science Agency CSIRO, or the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, two years ago.
These space rings are so massive that they are about a million light-years across, or 16 times larger than our galaxy, the Milky Way.
Astronomers believe that it takes a billion years for the circles to grow to their maximum size, and are so large that the objects have extended beyond other galaxies.
Now, the new image captured by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory’s MeerKAT telescope provides more details and information. (MeerKat is an acronym for Karoo Array Telescope, prefixed with the Afrikaans word for “more.”) The photo and results were published Monday at Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
At first, astronomers thought the circles could be galactic shock waves or even the throats of wormholes, among a host of ideas.
Now researchers have narrowed down the theories to three.
The strange radio circuits may be the remnants of a massive explosion at the center of a galaxy, such as when two supermassive black holes merge.
Second, they can be powerful jets pumping energetic particles from the galactic center.
Or, a third possibility is that it could be the result of a starburst shock wave caused by the birth of a star in a galaxy.
Only five radio circuits have been found in space so far.
“We know that ORCs are rings of faint radio emissions that surround a galaxy with a very active black hole at its center, but we don’t yet know what causes them, or why they are so rare,” the author said. — Study book author Ray Norris Professor. at Western Sydney University and CSIRO, in a statement.
Until now, strange radio circuits have only been found by telescopes that observe through radio wavelengths. Visible light, infrared and X-ray telescopes have yet to spot it, despite its enormous size.
As radio telescope astronomers find more and more to observe, these observations can help fill in many knowledge gaps about these strange new objects.
“People often want to explain their observations and show that they correspond to the best of our information. It’s even more exciting for me, to discover something new that challenges our current understanding,” study author Jordan Collier, a user support specialist in astronomy and bioinformatics at the Inter-University Institute for Data-Intensive Astronomy in South Africa, said in a statement. .
Collier produced the new image from data collected by Meerkat.
The MeerKAT telescope, located in the Karoo region of South Africa, consists of an array of 64 radio dishes and has been in operation since July 2018. The strong telescope is sensitive to weak radio light.
This collaboration will allow astronomers to find more exotic radio circuits – as well as more sensitive radio telescopes of the future.
Meerkat is a precursor to a futuristic telescope, the Intercontinental Square Kilometer Array or SKA, which is under construction in South Africa and Australia.
“There is no doubt that the SKA telescopes, once built, will find many more ORCs and can tell us more about the life cycle of galaxies,” Norris said in a statement. “Until SKA is operational, ASKAP and MeerKAT are poised to revolutionize our understanding of the universe faster than ever before.”
The array will include thousands of dishes and up to one million low-frequency antennas with the goal of building the world’s largest radio telescope.
Despite the fact that these dishes and antennas will be in two different parts of the world, together they will create a telescope with an area of more than 1 million square meters (386,102 square miles), which means that astronomers can study the entire sky much faster. from other telescopes.
It will also exceed the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope image and image large parts of the sky in sensitive detail.
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