Blasting over two million lights years from the center of a distant galaxy, PKS 0637-752 is a 'supersonic jet' of material that looks a lot like the afterburner flow of a fighter jet - but in this case the jet engine is a supermassive black hole and the jet material is actually moving at closer to the speed of light.
This megaparsec, galaxy-scale jet has bright and dark regions, similar to the phenomenon in afterburner exhaust called ‘shock diamonds.’ This new image of the previously studied jet reveals regularly spaced areas that are brighter than the rest of the jet in a pattern that echoes the way the afterburner from a jet engine has brighter diamond-shaped areas in its general glow.
“One intriguing possibility is that the pattern we see in this cosmic jet is produced in the same way as the pattern in the exhaust from fighter jet engines,” said Dr. Leith Godfrey, from the Curtin University node of The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.
PKS 0637-752’ as seen by the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) in New South Wales, Australia, showing the shock diamond-like shapes in the two million light year long structure. Image Credit: Dr Leith Godfrey, ICRAR and Dr Jim Lovell, UTas.
Godfrey said the jets are produced when material falls onto a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy, but many details beyond that remain unknown. “Massive jets like this one have been studied for decades, since the beginning of radio astronomy, but we still don’t understand exactly how they are produced or what they’re made of. If the brighter patches are caused by the same process in astronomical jets as they are in earthly jet engines, then the distance between them can give us important information about the power of the jet and the density of the surrounding space.”
Shock diamonds of a more terrestrial nature.
Godfrey said that jets like the one he studied are the largest objects in the Universe, about 100 times larger than the Milky Way. “If we want to understand how galaxies form and grow, we need to understand these jets. They are extremely powerful and are believed to stop stars forming in their parent galaxy, limiting how big the galaxies can grow and effecting how the Universe looks today.”
“This new image of the jet shows detail we’ve never seen before and the pattern we revealed provides a clue to how jets like this one work,” said Dr Jim Lovell, a co-author from the University of Tasmania. “This particular jet emits a lot of X-rays, which is hard to explain with our current models. Our new find is a step forward in understanding how these giant objects emit so much X-Ray radiation, and indirectly, will help us understand how the jet came to be.”
Dr Lovell said that the image had been taken using the CSIRO Australia Telescope Compact Array radio telescope in New South Wales. ICRAR is a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia providing research excellence in the field of radio astronomy.
Citation: L. E. H. Godfrey, J. E. J. Lovell, S. Burke-Spolaor, R. Ekers, G. V. Bicknell, M. Birkinshaw, D. M. Worrall, D. L. Jauncey, D. A. Schwartz, H. L. Marshall, J. Gelbord, E. S. Perlman, and M. Georganopoulos, “Periodic Structure in the megaparsec-scale jet of PKS 0637-752” Published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Vol 758 Number 2 doi:10.1088/2041-8205/758/2/L27
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Single Top Production At The LHC
- Our Ethical Responsibilities To Baby Terraformed Worlds - Like Parents
- Dietary Restriction, Circadian Rhythm, And Long Life
- Supersymmetry Is About To Be Discovered, Kane Says
- Anomaly! - A Different Particle Physics Book
- End Racist Sexism At US Universities Now
- Like Human Civilization? Thank Our Evil Side
- "Potentially you could have a test tube sort of structure almost to the surface where a liquid is..."
- "A single cryptic link to this by John Derbyshire on why educrats cannot handle black affirmative..."
- " I'm gonna call you out on a source for that. I haven't heard anything about this. I've read nonsense..."
- "On government bunkers, forgot to answer. Not my special subject :). But in the cold war there was..."
- "The reason I needed to do an article is because so many of you are so scared by it. I wouldn't..."
- Reduced blood flow seen in brain after clinical recovery of acute concussion
- MRI reveals weight loss protects knees
- Imaging identifies cartilage regeneration in long-distance runners
- Medicaid expansion improves breast cancer screening for low-income women
- Parental absence affects brain development in children