Shock waves! Fast-moving particles! Magnetic fields! This image has it all. Behold the merging galaxy clusters MACS J0717+3745 about five billion light-years from our planet.
That funny red thing you see in the center is new data from the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array showing a spot where “shocks caused by the collisions are accelerating particles that then interact with magnetic fields and emit the radio waves,” officials at the National Radio Astronomical Observatory stated.
“The complex shape of this region is unique; we’ve never spotted anything like this before,” stated Reinout van Weeren, an Einstein Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “The shape probably is the result of the multiple ongoing collisions.”
This is a composite image of new exposures from VLA and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, with an older image from the Hubble Space Telescope. And if you take a second look, there’s also a black hole: “The straight, elongated radio-emitting object is a foreground galaxy whose central black hole is accelerating jets of particles in two directions,” NRAO added. “The red object at bottom-left is a radio galaxy that probably is falling into the cluster.”
Astronomers presented their findings at the American Astronomical Society meeting this week in Boston.