Think of a galaxy cluster like a jigsaw puzzle, but not just any jigsaw puzzle. It’s one of those 1,000 piece challenges where every piece matters.
Scientists from the University of Bologna in Italy and elsewhere have focused on one such puzzle, a galaxy cluster called Abell 2142.
It’s far, far away – 1.24 billion light-years to be exact. This cluster is like a cosmic laboratory, perfect for understanding how galaxies evolve and how the universe works.
Now, thanks to some high-tech radio observations, they’ve found a new piece in this cosmic puzzle.
Discovering the Invisible: How They Did It
Radio halos are like invisible splatters of paint at the centers of galaxy clusters. They are very difficult to spot because they are very faint, especially when trying to view them with ordinary tools.
But the LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR), a fantastic telescope designed for this type of work, can capture those elusive splashes with great detail. The researchers used LOFAR to enlarge Abell 2142.
The new discovery: get to know H3
Prior to this study, scientists knew that this galaxy cluster has a large radio halo with two main parts. They named these H1 and H2. Think of H1 as the core – bright and round.
H2 is more like the Outskirts – bigger, but weaker and more expansive. But when the team took a closer look using LOFAR, they discovered something new – a third part, which they call H3.
H3 is quite massive, spanning about 7.8 by 6.5 million light-years. It also appears to follow the cluster’s X-ray patterns, suggesting it’s a crucial part of the image.
The researchers are calling it a “huge ultra-steep-spectrum radio halo,” which, in simple terms, means it’s a big, important new piece in this galactic puzzle.
What’s next: The origin story of H3
So where does this H3 come from? The scientists have a few ideas.
It could have arisen from an ancient, high-energy collision between galaxies, or from smaller, ongoing confusions that caused a stir and created this new feature.
In any case, H3 adds a new level to our understanding of galaxy clusters and the Universe.
This research not only adds another piece to the Abell 2142 puzzle; it opens up new questions and possibilities for understanding the cosmos.
And who knows, the next big discovery could be just another telescopic sighting away.
The study was published in arXiv.
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