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The researchers discover a ridge of radio emissions connecting two galaxy clusters

  Clustering of radio emissions connecting two galaxy clusters
Composite image of the galaxy clusters Abell 0399 and Abell 0401. The system is located approximately 1 billion light years from Earth, while the two galaxy clusters are approximately 10 million light years apart in projection , The nuclei of the two galaxy clusters are penetrated by a high-temperature plasma that emits in the X-rays (reds). Moreover, observations in microwaves show a delicate material filament connecting the two clusters (yellows). The low-frequency image in the radio waves (blue tones) shows several bright discrete sources, which are assigned to individual galaxies, and two diffuse radio stations in the direction of the centers of the two galaxy clusters. Along the filament connecting Abell 0399 and Abell 0401, a distinctive ridge of radio emissions is visible, showing the presence of a huge magnetic field illuminated by a population of high-energy electrons. Picture credits: DSS and Pan-STARRS1 (optical), XMM-Newton (X-rays), PLANCK satellite (y-parameters), F. Govoni, M. Murgia, INAF

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.

This video shows the stunning surroundings of Abell 0399 and Abell 0401, a pair of galaxy clusters at a distance of about 1 billion light-years. The two galaxy clusters have a projection distance of about 10 million light years, one hundred times the size of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The video first explores the vast space between the two clusters, but this is only the beginning of the story. Observations in the X-rays, in the microwaves and at low radio frequencies give a completely new view of this part of the sky. Image credits: DSS and Pan-STARRS1 (optical), XMM-Newton (X-rays), Planck satellite (y-parameter), F. Govoni, M. Murgia, INAF, Cjbeards, ASTRON

Federica Govoni, researcher at the Italian National The Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) talks about the discovery of a radio comb that connects two galaxy clusters. Credit: Media INAF
  Clustering of Radio Emissions Associated with Two Discovered Galaxy Clusters
The LOw-FRequency ARray (LOFAR) is the world's largest radio telescope with connected elements. This aerial photograph shows one of the many antenna stations that compose the array. Picture credits: ASTRON

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Further information:
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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