An international research team has found evidence that two galaxy clusters combine to form a ridge of radio emissions. In their article, which was published in the journal Science the group describes their find and how it fits into the cosmological theory.
The work began with results from earlier studies that reported that some clusters of galaxies have magnetic fields. They chose to focus on two of them, Abell 0399 and Abell 0401, which are merged after earlier investigations. Currently they are about 10 million light-years apart. To learn more about the two clusters of galaxies, researchers used LoFar, a low-frequency radio telescope consisting of 25,000 antennas at 51 locations. Her plan was to learn more about the filaments between the clusters. Filaments are extremely long gas strands that exist in the empty parts of space – together they form the so-called cosmic web.
Researchers report evidence of filaments in a band of radiation known as synchrotron emission – a type of illumination produced by electrons moving through a magnetic field. According to the researchers, the magnetic field stretched from one cluster of galaxies to the other, following a filament between them.
The finding is the first example of a magnetic field that expands between clusters of galaxies, raising the question of whether it happens frequently or happens to stumble over something rare. It also raises the question of where the electrons come from – computer simulations showed that the shockwaves generated by the fusion of the two galaxies may not have generated enough emissions to account for observations. The researchers plan to look for additional radio bridges, but do not expect such research to begin until the next generation of LoFar goes online – the so-called square kilometer array – which is not only the largest telescope in the world, but also a means of taking a closer look at filaments and possibly other magnetic fields that extend over wide areas of space.
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F. Govoni et al. A radio comb connecting two galaxy clusters in a filament of the cosmic web Science (2019). DOI: 10.1126 / science.aat7500
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Researchers detect increase in radio emissions to two galaxy clusters (June 7, 2019)
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