Home / Science / Astronomers discover a mysterious, 10 million-light-long magnetic field connecting two galaxy clusters

Astronomers discover a mysterious, 10 million-light-long magnetic field connecting two galaxy clusters

Close-up of the filament.
Image: DSS and Pan-STARRS1 (optical), XMM-Newton (X-rays) PLANCK satellite (y-parameters), F. Govoni, M. Murgia, INAF

Scientists have discovered radio waves emerging from space between a pair of galaxy clusters – evidence of intergalactic magnetic fields and fast moving particles in the space between these huge galactic arrays.

The universe consists of a vast network of galaxy clusters sitting at the interface of filaments. Galactic filaments are massive, thread-like material formations that make up the large-scale structure of the universe. So far, scientists have known about 10 million light years of filament connecting the galaxy clusters Abell 0399 and 0401 to magnetic fields within the clusters. However, they wondered if this filament itself contained magnetic fields and relativistic particles (ie, particles accelerated to near-velocity) light).

This, according to the authors of the study, is the first evidence of a magnetized filament and will hopefully help them better understand the formation of the large-scale structure of the universe.

"From a theoretical point of view this is the case A real challenge to explain this radio emission," said Federica Govoni, the first author of the study of the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (Cagliari Observatory), to Gizmodo of thousands of radio antennas Dozens of stations, mainly in the Netherlands, to search for low-frequency radio wave emissions between galaxies. They interpret the signal as the presence of synchrotron radiation or particles spiraling due to the influence of a magnetic field at near the speed of light.

Such a signal entered the data without an obvious source to cause it, according to the paper published in Science they were able to estimate the strength of the magnetic field and even noticed evidence of a substructure or lighter features aligned in the direction of the filament, Jason Tumlinso n Astronomer on the research staff of the Space Telescope Science Institute, who was not involved in the study, told Gizmodo it was "an impressive observation."

But here's the secret – the trait that scientists discovered is tens of times longer than the distance a relativistic electron can travel in its lifetime. How then could they measure the signature radio waves of the relativistic electron? The researchers suggest that an existing population of electrons was accelerated by weak shockwaves in the region generated during pattern formation.

Govoni told Gizmodo that, along with follow-up surveys, this observation has given them confidence that what they see is real. Now she hopes to be able to study this radio signal more closely and to be able to search for signals like this between other galaxy clusters in order to determine whether it is a common phenomenon in the cosmic network.

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