Colossal Shock Wave Rippling Across Space Is Bigger Than Our Entire Galaxy

A billion a long time in the past, an totally monstrous collision of two clusters of galaxies produced a pair of shock waves of definitely epic proportions.

These days, the constructions gleam brightly in radio wavelengths, so massive they could simply engulf the Milky Way galaxy’s approximated 100,000 gentle-yr diameter, stretching up to 6.5 million mild-decades by way of intergalactic area.


Now, utilizing the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa, a crew of astronomers has made the most specific examine of these radio buildings however, getting new insight into some of the most huge activities in the Universe.

“These structures are total of surprises and a lot far more elaborate than what we at first considered,” says astronomer Francesco de Gasperin of the University of Hamburg in Germany and the Countrywide Institute for Astrophysics in Italy.

“The shock waves act as huge particle accelerators that accelerate electrons to speeds close to the speed of mild. When these quickly electrons cross a magnetic area they emit the radio waves that we see.

“The shocks are threaded by an intricate pattern of dazzling filaments that trace the place of big magnetic industry traces and the regions wherever electrons are accelerated.”

abell 3667 shock radio relic animatedjpgThe magnetic fields of the major shock. (Francesco de Gasperin/SARAO)

Galaxy clusters are the premier constructions in the Universe that are bound with each other by gravity. They can be totally gigantic, made up of hundreds or 1000’s of person galaxies. Galaxies and galaxy clusters vacation along filaments of the cosmic net to cluster nodes, wherever they sign up for with each other to kind even greater clusters.

These epic events transpire at significant velocities, building cluster-scale shock waves that propagate by room, also at large velocities.


This unique cluster, termed Abell 3667, is however coming jointly. At least 550 galaxies have been linked with it, and the shock waves are propagating by means of it at velocities all over 1,500 kilometers per 2nd (930 miles per next).

The shocks that are connected with cluster mergers are known as radio relics, and they can be utilized to probe the properties of the intergalactic space within the cluster, known as the intracluster medium, and intracluster dynamics.

Abell 3667, at close to 700 million light-weight-a long time away, is somewhat shut to us, and also fairly significant, which usually means it is an exceptional target for these kinds of probes.

abell 3667 shock radio relic fullThe two radio relics of Abell 3667. (Francesco de Gasperin/SARAO)

Due to the fact the cluster is in the southern sky, astronomers have been able to search at it with just one of the most sensitive radio telescopes in the environment. MeerKAT is a precursor to and pathfinder for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) that is at present staying made throughout Australia and South Africa to provide an unprecedented radio eye on the sky.

MeerKAT’s observations, and those people of the Australian Sq. Kilometer Array Pathfinder, are giving us a style of the foreseeable future not just for the SKA, projected to see 1st gentle in 2027, but what we can uncover now.


“Our observations have unveiled the complexity of the interplay between the thermal and non-thermal components in the most energetic areas of a merging cluster,” the scientists create in their review.

“Each the intricate inside framework of radio relics and the immediate detection of magnetic draping around the merging bullet are effective examples of the non-trivial magnetic attributes of the intracluster medium. Many thanks to its sensitivity to polarized radiation, MeerKAT will be transformational in the review of these complex phenomena.”

The analysis has been printed in Astronomy & Astrophysics.