Largest known radio galaxy discovered

(ORDO NEWS) — In a new study, a team led by Martijn Oei of Leiden University in the Netherlands has discovered a radio galaxy that is at least 16 million light-years across.

A pair of plasma jets from this galaxy is the largest structure known to science to have been formed by a galaxy. These findings cast doubt on some common hypotheses about the growth of radio galaxies.

At the centers of many galaxies is a supermassive black hole (SMBH), which slows down the formation of new stars and thus greatly affects the life cycle of the galaxy as a whole.

Sometimes this leads to “turbulent scenes” – a black hole can form two jets that throw out “fuel for new stars” from the galaxy at a speed close to the speed of light. During this process, the stellar dust is heated so strongly that it dissolves into the plasma and begins to glow in the radio range.

This radiation was collected by the Oei team using the LOFAR radio observatory and carefully analyzed, which made it possible to detect a giant galaxy.

The radio galaxy discovered by the team lies at a distance of about three billion light-years from us. The fact that the “space monster” was discovered only now is associated with the low brightness of the galaxy’s jets. The discovered structure was named Alcyoneus, after the son of Uranus, the Greek god of the sky.

The jets of Alcyoneus can provide valuable information about the filaments of the Cosmic Web that elude observation.

The cosmic web is commonly referred to as the modern, deeply evolved universe, which looks like a network of threads and knots, which astronomers call filaments and clusters of galaxies, respectively.

The galaxies themselves in filaments and clusters are well distinguishable, but observations of the intergalactic medium have so far only been possible in clusters of galaxies. Can the Alcyoneus galaxy change this situation?

Since Alcyoneus, like the Milky Way, is located in a filament, its jets feel the action of the “wind” when the galaxy moves through the intergalactic medium. As a result, subtle changes in the direction and shape of the jets occur.

Speaking about the reasons for the growth of the Alcyoneus galaxy to such a huge size, scientists are still at a loss. At first, the group thought of an incredibly huge black hole, a vast stellar population (and correspondingly large amounts of dust), or extremely powerful jets.

To the surprise of scientists, it turned out that the Alcyoneus galaxy, according to all these signs, does not stand out in any way from a number of smaller radio galaxies. The team now plans to study the vicinity of this radio galaxy to assess their possible impact on its growth.

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