Astronomers Discover An Unknown Origin Space Structure Larger Than The Milky Way Galaxy - Beyond The World
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Astronomers Discover An Unknown Origin Space Structure Larger Than The Milky Way Galaxy

A team of astronomers has discovered new details of one of the strangest cosmic structures in the universe. So strange that they are literally referred to as “Odd Radio Circles” (ORC). 

AUSTRALIAN CITY OF CANBERRA — ORCs (odd radio circles) are mysterious space phenomena that resemble a ring or bubble and are brighter along their edges. Despite the fact that their genesis is still unknown, Australian researchers claim to have narrowed down what is likely causing these ORCs to emerge.

Thanks to the clearest radio telescope images of this phenomenon to date, a team at Australia’s national science agency CSIRO has three theories which could explain ORCs:

  • They may be the remnants of a huge explosion at the center of their local galaxy — possibly the merger of two supermassive black holes.
  • They could be powerful jet streams of energetic particles coming from their galaxy’s center.
  • A starburst “termination shock” after the creation of stars in their local galaxy may have created ORCs.

So far, only radio telescopes have been used to detect these unusual objects, and only five have ever been discovered in the cosmos. ORCs have yet to be discovered using optical, infrared, or X-ray telescopes.

(Left) The original discovery of ORC1 in the Evolutionary Map of the Universe (EMU) science survey team’s ASKAP radio telescope data. (Right) The follow-up observation of ORC1 with the MeerKAT radio telescope. © The EMU team, using ASKAP and MeerKAT radio continuum data

The new photos were taken by the MeerKAT radio telescope of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory. Dr. Jordan Collier, who produced the image from the telescope’s data, believes their results will provide new insights into the origins of these unusual radio circles.

“People often want to explain their observations and show that it aligns with our best knowledge. To me, it’s much more exciting to discover something new, that defies our current understanding,” Dr. Collier says in a media release.

How big is an odd radio circle?

If you think the fact that ORCs are so little is the reason why humans haven’t discovered many of them, think again. An ORC’s rings are estimated to be one million light years across, according to researchers. This is 16 times the size of the Milky Way galaxy. Despite this, the authors of the study claim that they are difficult to notice from Earth.

“We know ORCs are rings of faint radio emissions surrounding a galaxy with a highly active black hole at its center, but we don’t yet know what causes them, or why they are so rare,” explains Professor Ray Norris from Western Sydney University and CSIRO.

Data from SARAO’s MeerKAT radio telescope data (green) showing the odd radio circles, is overlaid on optical and near infra-red data from the Dark Energy Survey. © J. English (U. Manitoba)/EMU/MeerKAT/DES(CTIO)

For the time being, astronomers are relying on the ASKAP radio telescope and MeerKAT from the CSIRO to analyze these objects as rapidly as feasible. However, more international assistance is on the way.

The SKA Observatory will have even more sensitive scanning technology than present space telescopes, thanks to the support of over a dozen countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, France, Canada, China, and India.

“No doubt the SKA telescopes, once built, will find many more ORCs and be able to tell us more about the lifecycle of galaxies,” Professor Norris concludes. “Until the SKA becomes operational, ASKAP and MeerKAT are set to revolutionize our understanding of the Universe faster than ever before.”

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Bob Holben
Bob Holben
9 months ago

The only solid matter in the universe is composed of vibrations of light

Kevin Hill
Kevin Hill
9 months ago

If an ORC is 1 Million LY across it is 5 Times the size of our Milky Way – Not 16X ?
200,000 LY across for our Milky Way (Plus or Minus 10% – not sure why they can’t get that a bit tighter – but ?????)

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