An illustration showing a galaxy with spiral arms. Depositphotos.

Researchers Spot the Remnants of a 260-Million-Year-Old Radio Galaxy in Deep Space

According to two scientific papers, the oldest radio galaxy discovered to date is hidden within a cluster.

Scientists believe that they have discovered the oldest fossil radio galaxy yet discovered, hidden in a cluster, far away in deep space.

As per scientists’ current understanding, as a result of a supermassive black hole, the brightest galaxy in the cluster burst into space, blowing massive bubbles of radio light, Science Alert revealed.

“These newly discovered bubbles – known as radio lobes, or a radio galaxy – are the oldest of their kind we’ve ever seen,” claimed the astronomers’ team led by Surajit Paul and Savitribai Phule from Pune University in India.

In addition, astronomers led by Gopal Krishna at the University of Mumbai discovered two newer lobes related to the parent galaxy.

This object represents a rare pairing of lobes, suggesting erupted episodes from the supermassive black hole of the galaxy.

It is common for radio lobes to be found throughout the universe. Radio lobes are also found in our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

Supermassive black holes produce these when they become active and begin consuming matter from the surrounding space.

Intergalactic medium, which is a thin, gaseous layer between galaxies, is susceptible to the effects of radio lobes since they can extend millions of light-years beyond the galaxies from which they originate.

The study of these structures offers a better understanding of this medium’s recurring, episodic nature and the supermassive black holes that generate it.

Many of the particles fall into the black hole. Still, some of them are accelerated to their poles along the lines of the black hole’s external magnetic field, resulting in two jets traveling at a significant part of the speed of light.

As these jets traverse the interstellar medium, they form lobes that interact with it. Electrons are accelerated, and radio waves are emitted by the lobes, acting as a synchrotron.

Due to their rapid disappearance, we cannot locate examples older than 200 million years from our perspective since they vanish very quickly. The researchers noted that these “relics” could provide valuable information about the conditions that led to their formation.

Paul and his colleagues suggest that a low-mass, quiet galaxy cluster is a hot, relaxed environment that will likely increase their survival chances.

Abell 980, an approximately 2 billion light-years away galaxy cluster, was found to have such an environment using India’s Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope.

There, they discovered lobes that dated back more than 260 million years and covered over 1.2 million light years.

Identifying the source of the lobes was the next step.

In the second paper, Krishna and his colleagues traced it back to the brightest galaxy within the cluster, at the heart of Abell 980.

Despite this, Krishna and his team indicated that it was not always present.

Over 260 million years ago, it emitted the first pair of lobes in a position 250,000 light-years away. Another pair of lobes were created when the galaxy erupted again at the cluster center, according to Pune research.

As of now, only about a dozen double-double radio galaxies have been discovered, which are linked by two pairs of radio lobes.

These galaxies were named detached double-double radio galaxies due to the fact that the parent galaxy of the two pairs of lobes in Abell 980 migrated and separated the lobes.

According to the researchers, there have only been two other candidates for double-double radio galaxies, so this is the most plausible example yet.

The recurring nature of supermassive black hole outbursts may be revealed by more sensitive radio observations in the future.

Both papers have not been peer-reviewed yet, and are currently being considered by Astronomy & Astrophysics and Publications of the Australian Astronomical Society.

You can read the papers by clicking here and here.


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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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