Hundreds of mysterious threads found in the heart of the Milky Way

The pairs and clusters of threads extend for almost 150 light years in length and are evenly distributed. The bizarre structures are a few million years old and vary in appearance. Some of them look like harp strings, waterfalls or even the rings around Saturn.

But the true nature of the filaments remains intangible.

Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University, first discovered the threads 35 years ago via radio waves. He determined that the strings were made of cosmic ray electrons that moved their magnetic fields close to the speed of light. However, the origin of these threads has remained a mystery.

Now astronomers were able to find 10 times more wires than Yusef-Zadeh’s previous discovery using the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory MeerKAT telescope.

A study describing these findings, which has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Strange objects found near the Milky Way's supermassive black hole

“We have been studying individual filaments for a long time with myopic vision,” Yusef-Zadeh, lead author of the study and a member of the Northwestern Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics, said in a statement.

“Now we finally see the big picture – a panoramic view filled with an abundance of filaments. Just examining a few filaments makes it difficult to draw any real conclusion about what they are and where they came from. This is a watershed, that promotes development. our understanding of these structures. “

This marked mosaic shows the chaotic nature in the center of the Milky Way.

The new, detailed image is actually composed of a mosaic of 20 different observations taken over three years, as they look towards the distant center of the Milky Way, which is 25,000 light-years from Earth.

In addition to the long threads, the image shows the signatures of star birth and the remains of exploded stars through radio emissions. Yusef-Zadeh and his research team focused exclusively on the threads and isolated them from the other phenomena captured in the image.

“It’s like modern art,” he said. “These pictures are so beautiful and rich, and the mystery of it all makes it even more interesting.”

Separation of threads

The amount of radiation varied from other energetic cosmic events, as supernova remnants showed the team’s analysis of the strings. The researchers believe the strands are more likely related to past activity caused by the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way rather than explosions of stars.

The team also determined that magnetic fields are stronger along the wires.

This color image shows the strengths of magnetic fields generated by the wires.

Studying a larger group of threads allows scientists to better understand them, although there are still many mysteries.

“For example, if you were from another planet and you came across a very tall person on Earth, you could assume that all humans are tall,” Yusef-Zadeh said. “But if you do statistics across a population of people, you can find the average height. That’s exactly what we do. We can find the strength of magnetic fields, their lengths, their orientations, and the radiation spectrum.”

Huge balloon structures found in the middle of the Milky Way

While the team works to identify each string, they are still trying to figure out the orderly, equal distance between clusters of strings, the cause of the particle acceleration. or if the threads move over time.

“Every time we answer a question, several other questions arise,” Yusef-Zadeh said. “How do you accelerate electrons close to the speed of light? One idea is that there are some sources at the end of these filaments that accelerate these particles.”

It is possible that threads are linked to an earlier discovery by Yusef-Zadeh and his team in 2019: giant balloon structures in the heart of the galaxy.

More studies on the strings will be published in the future, and researchers hope to uncover how they fit in among the jumble of objects near the center of the Milky Way.

“We hope to get to the bottom of it, but more observations and theoretical analyzes are needed,” he said. “A full understanding of complex objects takes time.”

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