Research, Technology

Galactic filaments lurk outside the Milky Way

The Milky Way is hardly speciala galaxy - inside it are at least three hundred billion stars, around which at least one planet revolves. Our Galaxy contains thousands of planetary systems similar to the Sun. The Milky Way is about 100,000 light-years across, and our space home is located near a small arm of this spiral galaxy. Agree, this information is already enough to feel like a grain of sand in this endless, dark and expanding space. And yet, the hunter-gatherers we have been for centuries have achieved a lot - went into outer space, sent robots to explore other planets, and created tools that opened up a small part of the universe to our eyes. But do we know what is outside our Galaxy? How far have we looked into the cosmic ocean and what conclusions have we drawn from this? Surprisingly, it has only recently become known to us that mysterious galactic filaments are located in the immediate vicinity of the Milky Way.

Some of the newly discovered galactic filaments are 246 million light-years away.

Our space house

The age of the Milky Way is approximately 13.6billion years, and the galaxy is 100,000 light-years across. In the same way that the Earth revolves around the Sun, our galaxy revolves around the center - a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*. And despite the fact that the Milky Way is hurtling through space at a speed of about 828,000 km/h, our solar system takes about 250 million years to complete one revolution.

On a clear night, away from city lights, you cancatch a glimpse of other stars that rush through the night sky. Our window to the universe is the milky-white band of stars, dust and gas that gives our galaxy its name. Astronomers have recently identified its shape and type by observing a population of stars moving across the sky.

The Milky Way, together with the Andromeda Galaxy, the Triangulum Galaxy, and more than 40 dwarf satellite galaxies form the Local Group of galaxies.

More on the topic: The Milky Way is in a space bubble. What it is?

In fact studying the Milky Way was an incredibly difficult task, because we at least do not have enough review.Everything changed in the early 1990s, when ground-breaking space telescopes were launched into Earth orbit. These astronomical instruments have given us images of the solar system's planets, and have also made it possible to discern the basic shape and structure of some of the nearby galaxies. Yet restoring the form and structure of our own galactic home has been a slow and tedious process.

As it became known, according to the disk of our spiralgalaxies are scattered globular clusters of stars and approximately 40 dwarf galaxies that are either orbiting or colliding with the Milky Way. This beauty is, on top of that, surrounded by a spherical halo of dust and gas, and possibly even more of a mysterious dark matter.

The Milky Way appeared about 14 billion years ago as a result of the merger of huge clouds of gas and dust under the influence of gravity.

Recall that dark matter does not enter intoelectromagnetic interaction, and its existence can only be judged indirectly by its gravitational effect on space objects. According to calculations, up to 90% of the galaxy's mass is dark matter, which you can read more about here.

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Beyond the Milky Way

Our galaxy is pierced long magnetized threadscoming out of other galaxies and glowing in radio waves. In the early 1980s, they were discovered by astrophysicist Farhad Yusuf-Zade from Northwestern University (USA). So called galactic filaments are large-scale structures emerging from distant galaxies.

The Milky Way and the galaxies of the Local Group are pierced by magnetic galactic filaments

They are believed to be the result ofinteractions between cosmic dust, gas clouds and the galactic wind - a powerful stream of charged particles emanating from active star formation or the collision of black holes.

Galactic filaments and voids (voids) form a kind of network - the so-calledthe cosmic web and are the largest observable structures in the universe. It is noteworthy that galactic filaments and voids are capable of forming "great walls" of clusters and superclusters of galaxies.

Recently, astronomers reported a new discovery -it turned out that the mysterious threads extend beyond the Milky Way. Moreover, these structures exist even in the most distant galaxies and, as the authors of the scientific work believe, take an active part in their formation. The results of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters show that the filaments outside the Milky Way are much older than previously thought and are part of the same "family".

Galactic filaments permeate entire clusters of galaxies

You may be interested in: Is the Universe similar to the brain?

Note that the very first galactic filaments, discovered in the 80s of the twentieth century, extended up to 150 light years, rising near the heart of our Galaxy - supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*. (galactic filaments revolve around supermassive black holes at the centers of various galaxies). New study adds to previously discovered structures almost 1000 threads of electrons and cosmic raysthat rotate along the magnetic field at a speed close to the speed of light.

Family ties

Discovered galactic filaments are incluster of galaxies at a distance of one billion light-years from Earth. Among the reasons for their formation, researchers believe, is either the interaction between galactic winds and gas and dust clouds, or turbulence in magnetic fields due to the movement of galaxies. Thus, the filaments outside our Galaxy are 100-10,000 times longer than inside, moreover, they are much older, and their magnetic fields are weaker. However, the length and width of these mysterious filaments match those found in the Milky Way.

The results of computer simulations have shown that galactic filaments resemble space web - "threads" of mysterious dark matter inintergalactic space, forming a connected structure. In one of the previous articles, we talked in detail about this component of the cosmos, as well as voids and Laniakea.

Thousands of galaxies together form super- and hyperclusters, the largest objects in the universe.

The underlying physical mechanisms for bothThe populations of filaments are similar despite completely different environmental conditions. These objects belong to the same family, but the filaments outside the Milky Way are older, the study says.

Either way, discovering morefilaments in four different clusters of galaxies, ranging from 163 million to 652 million light-years away - a huge breakthrough. Discovered structures from another era of the Universe are signaling to the inhabitants of the Milky Way that all space objects are connected and, apparently, have a common origin.

The Milky Way is part of a huge supercluster of galaxies - Laniakea

The new discovery was made possible bya new generation of space telescopes, the sensitivity of which allows you to look through the thickness of dust and gas, hiding from us a large part of the inhabitants of the universe.

A great contribution to the study of both the nearest and the most distant space structures and objects from us has become possible thanks to radio astronomy, as well as the latest miracle of technology - James Webb Space Telescope, which began work in the summer of 2022 and has already led to a series of exciting astronomical discoveries, as well as a new look at the Pillars of Creation, which we recently talked about.