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Jellyfish in space? Is Outer space becoming a fishing hub?

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With the help of the Australian Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope, Astronomers have observed a mysterious phenomenon in outer space that resembles a jellyfish. 

The MWA radio telescope at the Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory in Western Australia is a low-frequency telescope operating in the 70 to 300 megahertz frequency range. In the future, it will become one of the four parts of the world’s largest radio interferometer SKA (Square Kilometer Array) with a total antenna collecting area of ​​about one square kilometer.

Researchers in Australia and Italy were using the MWA telescope to observe the galaxy cluster Abell 2877 (A2877) when their attention was attracted by a mysterious ultra-steep-spectrum (USS) synchrotron source that resembled a jellyfish. Scientists have named it USS Jellyfish.

The authors observed the mysterious phenomenon for 12 hours at five radio frequencies from 87.5 to 215.5 megahertz.

“We looked at the data and, as we lowered the frequency, saw a ghostly structure similar to a jellyfish start to appear,” lead author Torrance Hodgson of Curtin University said in a press release from the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).

“At conventional FM radio frequencies, the image is very bright, at 200 megahertz the radiation is practically lost. No other extragalactic radiation that has been observed before disappears so quickly.”

To explain the unique spectrum of the “space jellyfish”, the authors conducted a kind of astronomical investigation.

“Our working theory is that around 2 billion years ago, a handful of supermassive black holes from multiple galaxies spewed out powerful jets of plasma. This plasma faded, went quiet, and lay dormant,” Hodgson explains. “But more recently it started to mix after very soft shock waves passed through the system. This re-ignited the plasma, briefly illuminating the jellyfish and its tentacles, which we saw.”

“In size in the sky, USS Jellyfish is more than a third of the diameter of the Moon when viewed from Earth, and is visible only with low-frequency radio telescopes. Most radio telescopes cannot provide the necessary conditions for observing it due to their design or location. The authors hope that new data on the mysterious structure will be obtained after the completion of the project to deploy the SKA radio interferometer.”

The SKA will give us an unprecedented view of the low frequency universe,” says another study author, Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt of Curtin University.

“The SKA will be thousands of times more sensitive and have much better resolution than the MWA, so we expect many more mysterious radio jellyfish. Our discovery only hints at what lies ahead. This is an exciting time for anyone looking for answers to fundamental questions about space.”

The researchers plan in the future to develop a tool for creating a high-resolution, high-frame-rate video that will show the dynamics of radio images of the developing Universe from the first stars and galaxies to the present day.

The results of observations and hypotheses of scientists about the nature of the phenomenon have been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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