Celestial Morse Code? New study reveals mysterious dashes at heart of Milky Way
A groundbreaking discovery has emerged from the heart of the Milky Way where an international team of astrophysicists stumbled upon an entirely new population of threads at the centre of this massive galaxy, as per a study.
Farhad Yusef-Zadeh from Northwestern University in the early 1980s identified colossal one-dimensional filaments vertically hanging near Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole residing at the center of our galaxy.
Fast forward to the present day, and Yusef-Zadeh, an esteemed radio astronomer, along with his collaborators, has stumbled upon an entirely new population of threads. However, these threads differ from their vertical counterparts, being significantly shorter and arranged horizontally or radially, resembling spokes radiating outward from the black hole, like Morse code's dots and dashes.
Although the two sets of filaments share certain similarities, Yusef-Zadeh believes that they likely originate from different sources. While the vertical filaments sweep across the galaxy, towering as high as 150 light-years, the horizontal filaments punctuate only one side of Sagittarius A* and exhibit a pattern akin to Morse code.
Yusef-Zadeh expressed his astonishment, stating, "It was a surprise to suddenly find a new population of structures that seem to be pointing in the direction of the black hole."
"We had to do a lot of work to establish that we weren't fooling ourselves. And we found that these filaments are not random but appear to be tied to the outflow of our black hole. By studying them, we could learn more about the black hole's spin and accretion disk orientation. It is satisfying when one finds order in a middle of a chaotic field of the nucleus of our galaxy."
Horizontal dashes vs. Vertical dashes
After meticulously studying vertical filaments for decades, Yusef-Zadeh was taken aback upon uncovering their horizontal counterparts, estimated to be around six million years old.
"We have always been thinking about vertical filaments and their origin," he said. "I'm used to them being vertical. I never considered there might be others along the plane."
Vertical filaments stand perpendicular to the galactic plane, while horizontal filaments are parallel to the plane but radiate toward the galaxy's center, where the black hole resides. While vertical filaments possess magnetic and relativistic properties, horizontal filaments emit thermal radiation.
In vertical filaments involve particles approaching the speed of light, while horizontal filaments appear to accelerate thermal material within a molecular cloud. The number of vertical filaments reaches several hundred, whereas horizontal filaments are limited to just a few hundred.
"We think they must have originated with some kind of outflow from an activity that happened a few million years ago," Yusef-Zadeh said. "It seems to be the result of an interaction of that outflowing material with objects near it. Our work is never complete. We always need to make new observations and continually challenge our ideas and tighten up our analysis."