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There is a new type of mysterious object in space, and after taking our 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 bring the sprite-like humanoids from the “Lord of the Rings” books to mind, these fascinating objects have baffled scientists since they first discovered them 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 measure about a million light-years across – 16 times larger than our Milky Way galaxy.
Astronomers believe that the circles take a billion years to reach their maximum size, and are so large that the objects have expanded to outrun 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 on Monday in 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 whole host of ideas.
Now, researchers have narrowed down the theories to three.
The individual radio circuits may be the remnants of a massive explosion at the center of a galaxy, as opposed to what happens when two supermassive black holes merge together.
Second, they may 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 stars 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 hyperactive black hole at its center, but we don’t yet know what causes them, or why they are so rare,” said study co-author Ray Norris, professor. at Western Sydney University and CSIRO, in a statement.
So far, strange radio circuits have been found only 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 of them to observe, these observations can help fill in many knowledge gaps about these strange new objects.
People often like to explain their observations and show that they correspond to the best of our knowledge. “For me, it’s even more exciting 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, has an array of 64 radio dishes and has been in operation since July 2018. The powerful telescope is sensitive to dim radio light.
The collaboration will allow astronomers to find more individual radio circuits – as will the more sensitive radio telescopes of the future.
Meerkat is a precursor to an upcoming telescope, the Transcontinental Square Kilometer Array, or SKA, which is under construction in both South Africa and Australia.
“There is no doubt that the SKA telescopes, once built, will find many more ORCs and will be able to tell us more about the life cycle of galaxies,” Norris said in a statement. “Until SKA comes into operation, ASKAP and MeerKAT are set 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 in an effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope.
Despite the fact that these dishes and antennas would be in two different parts of the world, together they would create a single telescope of more than 1 million square meters (386,102 square miles), meaning astronomers could scan the entire sky much more quickly than Use other telescopes.
It will also exceed the image resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope and visualize large parts of the sky in delicate detail.
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