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60x Bigger Than the Entire Milky Way Galaxy

By: April Carson

Big explosions and collisions are something that astronomers adore, and they seem to be constantly striving to one-up each other in terms of the largest, brightest one they can possibly discover. There's a new entrant into the field - a phenomenon so enormous that it produced a burst of particles over 1 billion years ago, which is still apparent today and is 60 times bigger than the Milky Way.

This new discovery was made by the Very Large Telescope in Chile, and it's called the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA). It's a consortium of multiple telescopes which work together to observe high-energy gamma rays. The CTA has been specifically designed to hunt for gamma ray bursts (GRBs) - these are some of the most energetic and explosive events in the universe.

The collision of two galaxy clusters to form a supercluster called Abell 3667 was responsible for the shockwave. According to calculations by Professor Francesco de Gasperin and his time from the University of Hamburg and INAF, this was one of the most kinetic events in history.

The gamma ray burst was first spotted by NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, and it was then that the international team of scientists swung into action to try and figure out what had happened.

It produced a pulse of electrons that was similar to how a particle accelerator would. For all these years, those particles have been traveling at Mach 2.5 (1500 km/s), and when they go through magnetic fields, they produce radio waves as they pass through them.

Dr. de Gasperin and his colleagues were able to identify the shockwave using a new telescope array in South Africa known as MeerKAT, which is capable of detecting radio waves. However, just radio waves alone were insufficient to describe the shockwave; XMM-Newton's X-ray observatory also observed Abell 3667 for some time.

Combining the data from both observatories, the scientists were able to create a computer simulation of what had happened. It showed that the pulse of electrons was traveling 60x faster than the particles in the Milky Way galaxy. This means that it is capable of crossing the entire galaxy in just 2 million years!

Researchers hope to gain a better understanding of the physics behind galaxy cluster merger after taking all those observations. Dr. de Gasperin said, "We were much more sophisticated than we thought previously."

The shockwaves resemble "filaments that trace the path of enormous magnetic field lines." What is evident from the photographs is that, even when researchers are only looking for large collisions, the subsequent radio pictures might be stunning on their own.

"These objects are like fireworks displays," explained Dr. de Gasperin. "They are very pretty to look at."

The study was published on Universe Today.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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