Detailed images of a giant shock wave stretching 6.5 million light-years through space

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of astronomers, led by researchers from the Hamburg Observatory, Germany, have captured the most detailed images of the largest shock wave ever observed in the history of astronomy. These observations are based on data collected by the MeerKAT radio telescope located in South Africa.

Galaxies are not evenly distributed throughout the Universe, they are concentrated in the so-called clusters of galaxies, within which the member galaxies of the cluster are held together by gravity.

But gravity also leads to mutual attraction between the clusters of galaxies themselves – and collisions become inevitable. Collisions between clusters of galaxies are the largest astronomical events in the universe.

When clusters of galaxies collide, giant shock waves form and move through the newly formed cluster of galaxies.

In a new study, an international team of astronomers led by Dr. Francesco de Gasperin, visiting fellow at the Hamburg Observatory, has successfully imaged the largest shock wave ever observed in the history of astronomy using data collected using the MeerKAT radio telescope.

These high-resolution images of the Abel 3667 galaxy cluster provide unique new information about the structure of cosmic shock waves.

“Cosmic shock waves are full of surprises and have a much more complex structure than we previously thought,” said Francesco de Gasperini and explained: “These shock waves act like giant particle accelerators and accelerate electrons to speeds close to the speed of light.

When these fast electrons enter a magnetic field, they emit long-wavelength radiation that can be observed with radio telescopes.

These shock waves are laced with intricately intertwined bright filaments, along which you can trace the direction of the lines of giant magnetic fields, as well as the location of those regions where electrons are accelerated.

One of the key areas of research conducted at the Hamburg Observatory is the study of galaxy clusters. The Abell 3667 galaxy cluster is especially well observed with the MeerKAT radio telescope located in the Southern Hemisphere, since it is relatively close to us.

The Abell 3667 cluster was formed about one billion years ago, but what scientists observe in this cluster today actually happened about 800 million years ago. At this time, shock waves propagated at a speed of about 1500 kilometers per second and had dimensions of the order of 60 diameters of the Milky Way.


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