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Outer Space Is Haunted And Maybe a Little Naughty

Is it just us, or is space down for some fun?

CK Kimball
August 05 2021

The universe is full of mystery and researchers from Western Sydney University and CSIRO have found the answer to at least one spooky question. What are those “Dancing Ghosts” clouds observed surrounding galaxies billions of miles away and why does it seem like they’re looking for love?  

Credit: Western Sydney University
Credit: Western Sydney University 

Now, thanks to Australia’s national science agency, we know the answer and it’s even sultrier than we could have imagined. These are two galaxies spitting out electrons from their supermassive black holes into the intergalactic wind.   

Is it just us, or is space a little naughty? 

It started with the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, or ASKAP, currently the worlds most powerful radio telescope operated by Australias national science agency, CSIRO. Construction began in 2009 with first light, or the first time a telescope is used take an astronomical image, commenced in 2012. From 2019 to 2020, ASKAP conducted a shallow survey of the entire sky, mapping three million galaxies, in 300 hundred hours, discovering one million new galaxies in the process. 

And erotic space ghosts. 

The search, called the EMU Pilot Survey, discovered many anomalies but the Dancing Ghosts, blue clouds of electrons, were a surprise. Something never seen before. Several weeks later, they figured out they were looking at not one. But two radio galaxies. 

Which is kind of a big deal. As mentioned, the ASKAP radio telescope, on its first run, picked up one million new galaxies. It seems ludicrous that space could have tucked away so many galaxies that we had never seen before, but that only illustrates the limitations of our former technology. Even our own beloved Milky Way, for example, while technically visible to the naked eye in dark enough environments, still contains vast sections that remain invisible due to dense areas of darkness between. It is this dark space gas that obscures the rest of the universe from even the most powerful radio telescope. 

Further technological developments in recent times, including ASKAP, has expanded that view farther out towards the edges of the Cosmos, seemingly looking into the past of galaxies billions of miles away. But its still pretty fuzzy. Ergo ... Dancing Ghosts. 

Two Radio Galaxies means two galaxies that emit higher frequency radio emissions meaning theyre much more difficult to, well, view. Radio Galaxies are almost always an Elliptical Galaxy, one of the three classifications of galaxies along with Spiral Galaxies (the Milky Way) and Irregular Galaxies (those messes). But, unlike their universal cousins, Elliptical Galaxies are old, observed with star systems that reach back to the beginning of time and devoid of the leftover mechanics of new star creation. 

And they are down for some fun. 

The EMU Pilot researchers of Western Sydney University and the Australian national science agency CSIRO have figured out, in the delicate blue clouds appearing as “Dancing Ghosts” in the stars, they were seeing two radio galaxies, about a billion light years away. And, to reiterate one final time, in the center of each one, a supermassive black hole, squirting out jets of electrons that are bent into wild shapes by an intergalactic wind. Squirting. 

So no ghosts. Just a retired piece of the Cosmos getting its groove on.



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