The best pictures of the newest mysteries of astronomy

Many of mankind’s greatest mysteries are discovered right above and that is that for different generations, space has been the greatest unknown in history.

Astronomy’s newest mystery object – the strange radio circle, or ORC – has been in sharp focus by a team of astronomers with the world’s most capable radio telescope, which has produced clearer images than, contrary to dispelling doubt, more theories have been put forward about its creation.

IIWhen first revealed in 2020 by the ASKAP radio telescope Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, strange radio circles quickly became an object of fascination. Theories about what causes it range from galactic shockwaves to wormhole throats.

A new detailed image, captured by South Africa’s MeerKAT Radio Astronomy Observatory radio telescope and published in the Royal Astronomical Society’s Monthly Notice, provides researchers with more information to help narrow down those theories.

There are now three main theories to explain what causes ORCs:

  1. They can be remnants of a large explosion at the center of their parent galaxy, such as the merger of two supermassive black holes.
  2. Become a powerful beam of energetic particles emanating from the center of the galaxy.
  3. And a third possibility is that they could be the result of a “termination shock” star explosion from star production in the galaxy.

Until now, heORC is only detected using radio telescopes, there was no sign of it when researchers had searched for it using optical, infrared, or X-ray telescopes.

Dr Jordan Collier of the Interuniversity Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy, who compiled the images from the MeerKAT data, said continuing to observe these strange radio circles would give researchers more clues.

“People often want to explain their observations and show them to the best of our knowledge. To me, much more interesting to discover something new, which defies our current understanding,” Collier said in a statement.

The ring is enormous: about a million light-years away, which is 16 times larger than our own galaxy. Even so, the odd radius circle was hard to see.

“We know that ORCs are faint radio emission rings surrounding galaxies with a very active black hole at the center, but we don’t yet know what causes them or why they are so rare,” said Professor Norris.

To truly understand the strange radio circles, scientists will need access to more sensitive radio telescopes, such as the SKA Observatory, which is supported by more than a dozen countries, including the UK, Australia, South Africa, France, Canada, China and India.

“Without a doubt, the SKA telescope, once built, will find more ORCs and will be able to tell us more about the life cycle of galaxies,” said Professor Norris.

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Sheila Vega

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