By: April Carson
An enormous galaxy has been discovered by astronomers. It's huge. It's so large, in fact, it challenges our current understanding of the size of galaxies. Officially called Dragonfly 44, this behemoth was first detected by the Dragonfly Telephoto Array in New Mexico. The array consists of eight Canon telephoto lenses attached to a camera and is designed to focus on objects in space which would otherwise look blurry to human eyes.
Alcyoneus is a huge radio galaxy 3 billion light-years away that reaches 5 megaparsecs into space. That's 16.3 million light-years long, making it the largest known structure of galactic origin.
The finding reveals how little we know about these behemoths, and what motivates their spectacular growth. But it may also lead to a better understanding of not just radio galaxies, but the interstellar medium that flows through the vast regions of space.
The formation of radio galaxies is another puzzle in a world full of perplexities. They're made up of a host galaxy (a group of stars orbiting a galactic nucleus with a supermassive black hole), as well as enormous jets and lobes that emerge from the center of the galaxy.
The dense gases in the galactic halo are permeated by jets and lobes that interact with the intergalactic medium, giving off radio waves as a result of synchrotron acceleration of electrons.
The jets are undoubtedly the result of an active supermassive black hole at the galactic center. When we say a black hole is "active" when it's consuming material from a large disk of swirling matter, we're talking about an accretion disk.
Some of the material in an active black hole's accretion disk is drawn into it, but not all of it does so. A tiny amount of it is channeled from the inner region of the accretion disk to the poles, where it is discharged as fast-moving jets of ionized gas at speeds many times that of light.
The jets, which can reach hundreds or thousands of kilometers in length before expanding into huge radio-emitting lobes, may travel significant distances before reaching Earth.
During the past few years, a small number of powerful active black holes have been discovered by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a chain of radio telescopes.
This is a typical procedure. The Milky Way has radio lobes, just like the rest of the cosmos. What we don't know is why, on megaparsec scales, some galaxies develop to be so enormous. These are known as super huge radio galaxies, and the most extreme examples might help us figure out what drives their expansion.
The researchers, led by astronomer Martijn Oei of Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, note in their preprint paper, which has been accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics, that if host galaxy characteristics are a major factor in generating huge radio galaxies, the hosts of the largest giant radio galaxies are probably to have them.
"Further, if there are particular large-scale environments that are highly conducive to the formation of colossal radio galaxies, the largest giant radio galaxies are more than likely to be found there.
The researchers went on a quest to find these outliers in data collected by the Low Frequency ARray (LOFAR) in Europe, an interferometric network made up of around 20,000 radio antennas distributed across 52 locations throughout Europe.
They ran the data through a new pipeline, deleting compact radio sources that might disrupt observations of diffuse radio lobes and mitigating for optical distortion.
The researchers claim that the images produced are "the most sensitive search ever conducted for radio galaxy lobes." They then relied on the best pattern recognition technology available for locating their target: themselves.
This is how they discovered Alcyoneus, who emerged from a distant galaxy billions of light-years away.
We've found what is likely the biggest known construction by a single galaxy – a colossal radio galaxy with a projected real length of 4.99 ± 0.04 megaparsecs. The actual genuine length is at least 5.04 ± 0.05 megaparsecs, according to them.
The researchers used the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to attempt to understand the host galaxy after they had measured the lobes.
They discovered that it's a typical elliptical galaxy, embedded in a cosmic web filament weighing about 240 billion Suns, with a supermassive black hole about 400 million times the mass of the Sun at its center.
The low values for both of these indicators might give some hints about what causes the radio lobes to develop.
The scientists discovered that, beyond geometry, Alcyoneus and its host are strangely uninteresting: "The total low-frequency luminosity density, stellar mass, and supermassive black hole mass are all lower than, but comparable to, those of the medially massive radio galaxies," they note.
"Therefore, very huge galaxies or central black holes are not necessary to produce big giants, and if the observed condition is representative of the source throughout its existence, neither is high radio strength."
Or it's possible that Alcyoneus is located in a lower-density area of space, allowing its growth – or that the cosmic web has an impact.
Whatever lurks behind it, Alcyoneus is thought to be swelling even larger, far away in the cosmos dark.
"Alcyoneus is a very rare and extremely massive object, so it may be the first one to reveal some new physical processes of galaxy formation," said co-author Alberto Bolatto from University of Maryland.
"So we hope to have discovered a new model for the formation of giant galaxies."
Finally, here's a spoiler that space fans will be overjoyed with: all of this was discovered by analyzing images captured in just one scan of the sky.
Mysteries Of The Gods by Erich Von Daniken Ep 7
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 bossbabymav.com
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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