Strange radio signals from deep space speak of new physics

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Strange radio signals from deep space, containing signs of new physics, have been identified in a cluster of galaxies located 800 million light-years from Earth. They challenge existing theories about their origins and characteristics.

Scientists have discovered mysterious radio structures in the midst of a huge cluster of galaxies called Abel 3266located 800 million light years away.

These radio objects, some of which have never been seen before, pose new challenges to our understanding of the universe and offer unprecedented insight into the tumultuous regions of the cosmic web, reports Vice magazine.

In an article published in The Conversation, two of the authors of this research point out that these mysterious signals challenge existing theories about their origins and characteristics.

Abell 3266 is a cluster of galaxies that is part of the Horologium-Reticulum supercluster. It is one of the largest in the southern hemisphere sky and one of the largest concentrations of mass in the nearby universe.

new images

A team of scientists, led by astrophysicist Christopher Risleyfrom the University of Bologna in Italy, has examined new images of Abell 3266, captured by two of the most sensitive radio observatories on Earth.

This analysis has revealed several hitherto unknown radio structures within this cluster, according to a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

When galaxy clusters collide with each other, huge amounts of energy are deposited into the hot plasma particles, generating radio emissions. And this emission comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, the researchers explain.

Relics and radio halos

The “radio relics” they are an example. They are arc-shaped and settle towards the outskirts of a cluster, propelled by shock waves traveling through the plasma, causing a jump in density or pressure and energizing the particles.

The “radio halos” they are irregular sources that are towards the center of the cumulus. They are powered by turbulence in the hot plasma, which energizes the particles. We know that both halos and relics are generated by collisions between galaxy clusters, but many of their gritty details remain elusive.

Then there are the “fossil” radio sources. These are the radio remains of the death of a supermassive black hole at the center of a radio galaxy.

Wrong way

Structures seen in the new study include a huge radio halo that is “conclusively detected here for the first time” and contains “an extended central diffuse ‘ridge’ that we cannot yet classify,” according to the study.

The researchers also examined the so-called “wrong way relic,” an arc-shaped radio structure with a strange concave shape and other features that had never been seen in similar objects, as well as a “fossil plasma source” that was created. by powerful explosions from a past supermassive black hole that has since faded into obscurity.

According to the researchers, the radio fossil is very old and represents the final stage in the evolution of a radio galaxy: it reveals that the black hole that once powered the fossil died out long ago.

strange relic

The new observations also show that the arched relic has an odd concave shape and spectral patterns that are “not trivially explained by current radio relic formation scenarios,” the researchers write in their study.

The properties of these strange radio sources don’t seem to fit with our current understanding of the origin and evolution of similar structures, so they speak to new physics, according to the researchers.

This is the beginning of the road to understanding Abell 3266. We have uncovered a wealth of new and detailed information, but our study has raised even more questions, the authors write in The Conversation.

The telescopes we use are laying the groundwork for the revolutionary science of the Square Kilometer Array project. Studies like ours allow astronomers to discover what we don’t know, but you can be sure that we will discover it, they conclude.


Radio fossils, relics, and haloes in Abell 3266: cluster archeology with ASKAP-EMU and the ATCA. CJ Riseley et al. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 515, Issue 2, September 2022, Pages 1871–1896. DOI:

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