A team of astronomers at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARO) claim they’ve solved the mystery behind why some galaxies shoot four jets of radio waves outwards, forming an “X” shape in the sky.
Many galaxies only shoot out two jets of radio waves. Some active galaxies, however, have four — a strange phenomenon astronomers have tried to explain for years.
Using observations from the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa, a radio observatory consisting of 64 antennas, the team closely examined a galaxy with four jets of radio wave plumes called PKS 2014-55 some 80o million light years from Earth.
They found that material tends to flow towards the center of the galaxy and “turn the corner” due to “pressure of tenuous intergalactic gas,” according to a statement, flowing down the second arm of the two respective twin jets of radio waves — strong evidence that the strange galaxies could be the result of two black holes deflecting material in different directions, forming the “X.”
The discovery was thanks to MeerKAT’s incredible resolution. Astronomers used computers to combine data from its 64 antennas into the equivalent of an eight-kilometer-wide dish.
“It’s wonderful to see how its unique capabilities are contributing to resolving longstanding questions related to the evolution of galaxies,” noted Bernie Fanaroff, former director of project that built MeerKAT, and a co-author of the study, in a statement.
READ MORE: Mysterious ‘X-galaxy’ reveals its secret in powerful telescope image [CNET]
More on galaxy mysteries: PHYSICIST: OUR GALAXY MAY BE LOCATED INSIDE AN ENORMOUS BUBBLE