Astronomers study two million light year 'extragalactic afterburner'

Astronomers study two million light year 'extragalactic afterburner'
The jet known as ‘PKS 0637-752’ as seen by the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) in New South Wales, Australia clearly showing the shock diamond-like shapes in the two million light year long structure. Image Credit: Dr Leith Godfrey, ICRAR and Dr Jim Lovell, UTas.

(—Blasting over two million lights years from the centre of a distant galaxy is a supersonic jet of material that looks strikingly similar to the afterburner flow of a fighter jet, except in this case the jet engine is a supermassive black hole and the jet material is moving at nearly the speed of light.

Research published over the weekend in the shows the galaxy-scale jet to have bright and dark regions, similar to the phenomenon in an afterburner exhaust called 'shock diamonds.'

A new image of the previously studied jet reveals regularly spaced areas that are brighter than the rest of the jet in a pattern that echoes the way the afterburner from a jet engine has brighter diamond-shaped areas in its general glow.

"One intriguing possibility is that the pattern we see in this cosmic jet is produced in the same way as the pattern in the exhaust from engines," said Dr Leith Godfrey, from the Curtin University node of The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.

Dr Godfrey said the jets are produced when material falls onto a at the centre of a galaxy, but many details beyond that remain unknown.

"Massive jets like this one have been studied for decades, since the beginning of radio astronomy, but we still don't understand exactly how they are produced or what they're made of," he said.

"If the brighter patches are caused by the same process in astronomical jets as they are in earthly jet engines, then the distance between them can give us important information about the power of the jet and the density of the surrounding space."

Dr Godfrey said that jets like the one he studied are the largest objects in the Universe, about 100 times larger than the .

"If we want to understand how galaxies form and grow, we need to understand these jets. They are extremely powerful and are believed to stop stars forming in their , limiting how big the galaxies can grow and effecting how the Universe looks today," he said.

"This new image of the jet shows detail we've never seen before and the pattern we revealed provides a clue to how jets like this one work," said Dr Jim Lovell, a co-author from the University of Tasmania.

"This particular jet emits a lot of X-rays, which is hard to explain with our current models. Our new find is a step forward in understanding how these giant objects emit so much X-Ray radiation, and indirectly, will help us understand how the jet came to be."

Dr Lovell said that the image had been taken using the CSIRO managed Australia Telescope Compact Array radio telescope in New South Wales.

Explore further

Chandra Shows Shocking Impact of Galaxy Jet

More information: Leith Godfrey et al. "Periodic Structure in the megaparsec-scale jet of PKS 0637-752" Published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Vol 758 Number 2.
Journal information: Astrophysical Journal Letters

Provided by International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research
Citation: Astronomers study two million light year 'extragalactic afterburner' (2012, October 22) retrieved 21 September 2019 from
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Oct 22, 2012
Preemptive strike...This is not a Birkeland current. I work with plasma every day and understand them very well, and this is most definitely NOT a Birkeland current. The EU side will probably try to claim that it is and they can prove it, if only the government would fund their research.

Then they will continue with how we are all blind to the real forces at work in the galaxy, and the conspiracy at work to keep the status quo in science.

As for the study. Very cool and amazing work the true scientists of today are doing no matter what the EU folks say.

Does your comment imply that no study is true science unless it confirms or supports the status quo? IMHO, there is no cabal called the "EU folks", just as there is no cabal consisting of scientists toeing the line called "status quo". Let's do research and let the data do the speaking, not opinion or conjecture.

Oct 22, 2012
Yeah, I don't think you work with plasma at all, if you did, I doubt you'd be commending these scientists on their good work while they are trying to describe the behavior of plasmas using mechanical models of gas interactions.
Once again, this plasma has ALL the hallmarks of a Birkeland current, it's filamentary and confined by magnetic fields, particles are being accelerated to relativistic speeds, it is producing radio and X-rays, it displays a cellular nature within the structure, and it extends for many parsecs through intergalactic space without losing an appreciable amount of energy. All of these and more fact support that this is in fact an intergalactic birkeland current, despite A2G blanket statement to the contrary.

Oct 22, 2012
Galactic Jet Engines? Give me a break.

LaViolette's model might suggest that the predicted periodic cosmic ray superwaves emitted from the core illuminate the ejected jet periodically, producing the intermittent pattern observed. Such a superwave in our galaxy is now interacting with the Crab Nebula, producing the inexplicable illumination now observed. This superwave coincides with our last ice age transition.

Why invent a jet engine, when far simpler explanations are available???

Oct 22, 2012
The notion of @A2G preemptively closing peoples' minds to an inference is absurd. Science is not a sport, where we root for our favorite team and blindly advocate for the squashing of alternative, competing lines of investigation. In science, we force induction because the method of free induction takes too long. In other words, there are enough people on this planet to actively investigate any inference which can point to laboratory fundamentals to make its case. How in the world would we ever develop those lines of investigation sufficient to formulate a meaningful opinion about them, if our goal is to preclude people from talking and thinking about them?

EU critics exhibit a preference for prejudice when they advocate that we should all be ignorant of inferences which challenge mainstream astrophysics and cosmology -- and they do so as if astrophysics and cosmology can point to a functional framework. One gets the sense that pre-existing knowledge is being unfairly defended.

Oct 22, 2012
Re: "I have asked before and I ask again. Have you ever done a plasma experiment yourself?"

What in the world does this have to do with anything? Does a person now have to work with something directly in order to have a meaningful opinion on it? The EU is an *interdisciplinary* study: It's an attempt to synthesize all disciplines of science, starting from an argument over how to model cosmic plasmas, and including an analysis of human mythological archetypes as well. Plasma physics is one small, but important, component to this synthesis.

The real problems of science occur when specialists -- including plasma physicists, on occasion -- think that they can understand the universe in the absence of a wide breadth of knowledge. Specialization was adopted from the business world because it leads to efficiency, and because specialists do not threaten hierarchical institutions. It's not a means of thinking critically about complex topics. That's what synthesis is for.

Oct 22, 2012
Also, the theory for how lightning forms is hardly something we should speak about as if the story has concluded. NASA just sent a probe up to study the relationship between lightning and the van allen radiation belts. The fact that the van allen radiation belts "blink" with each lightning stroke should inspire far more caution than we get from the EU pseudo-skeptics. Authentic skepticism is agnostic. Pseudo-skepticism imagines that the non-believing world is at war with science itself (rather than theory), and lumps critical thinking together with those who really are anti-science.

A blinking van allen radiation belt is highly suggestive of an electrical system. As you should know, since you work with them, plasmas can still do things of importance in a dark mode. This should inspire caution in astrophysicists and cosmologists that their plasma models (which in truth, actually treat the plasmas no different from gases) have only focused on the plasma they can directly see.

Oct 22, 2012
@A2G: Many people have attempted to "debunk" the Electric Universe. I've spent a little more than two years observing and interacting with people who have decided to make this their mission. I'm very familiar with all of the critics. What you will find is that the most vocal critics tend to be a rather small group. Some are affiliated with the BAUT forum, others with NASA. At the same time, there are elements of NASA who are just as excited about EU theory, but who see this hostile debunking environment, and decide to simply keep their opinions to themselves -- or communicate with the EU theorists in private.

The hostile nature of the debate, in the end, does the public an extreme disservice, for all that it accomplishes in the long run is that it leaves the erroneous perception amongst the public that we cannot build a new scientific framework. The truth is that we can if we decide to, and that this is actually an incredible opportunity to train students in critical thinking.

Oct 22, 2012
Re: "It is really quite amazing to see and it explains a lot of the behavior of what we see around "blackholes" "

It would also appear that the mathematics for blackholes appears "quite amazing" as well. Stephen Crothers has gone into great detail on all of the incredible gymnastics which mathematicians must perform in order to propose that this incredible (non-scientific) idea can exist. I say non-scientific, of course, because -- after all -- how can a person actually falsify something which is impossible to see?

In the real world of science -- which is oftentimes at odds with the malformed thought experiments of astrophysics and cosmology -- things like falsification are supposed to affect our confidence in them. If you were trying to be agnostically skeptical, you'd be just as dubious of blackholes as you are of the EU.

Oct 22, 2012
Many people have attempted to "debunk" the Electric Universe. I've spent a little more than two years observing and interacting with people who have decided to make this their mission. I'm very familiar with all of the critics. What you will find is that the most vocal critics tend to be a rather small group. Some are affiliated with the BAUT forum, others with NASA. -HandflappinAlfven

Yes, it's quite hard, because EU is not a theory, it's a bunch of nebulous concepts that can be stretched and contorted to "explain" everything, including why my cat is orange. Debunking EU is like getting in a fight with bread dough. It's mostly gas bubbles, but at least it's good exercise to prep for debates with smarter people. Oh, and I'm not affiliated with BAUT or NASA.

Oct 23, 2012
Re: "Yes, it's quite hard, because EU is not a theory, it's a bunch of nebulous concepts that can be stretched and contorted to "explain" everything, including why my cat is orange."

Actually, it's become clear from the efforts of conventional theorists that by favoring the action of gravity and gases, with electrical currents as only 2nd order phenomenon, that the universe's mover-and-shakers are ...

Black holes (the definition has shifted to accommodate observations over time)

Dark matter (whatever it actually is, theorists tell us that it's definitely NOT modified gravity)

Dark energy (gravity that repels!)

Relativity (the bending of *empty* space-time)

Quantum mechanics (the reification of mathematics)

The Gravitational Constant (whose error bars increase over time, as we do more measurements -- an "inconstant constant" ...)

Of course, there are also malformed concepts like ...

Neutron stars (which violate the island of stability)

Higgs boson (a "force particle")

Oct 23, 2012
Re: "So there you go. One of your so called experts doesn't even believe the EU crap."

Halton Arp has never met with Wal Thornhill. He's never actually had an opportunity to discuss the EU with the theorists in person. So, the EU take on Arp is that his work on quasars does indeed falsify the dark energy inference. But, the difference between mainstream science and natural philosophy is that conventional thinkers prioritize consensus, whereas natural philosophers value convergence. Consensus invites monolithic belief and leads to social structures which value conformity over creative problem-solving. Convergence permits thinkers the space they need to pursue their own ideas, but also values the importance of peer feedback to the process of theory-making.

Creativity is basically a black box to conventional thinkers, because creativity only occurs in intrinsically motivated people. Externally motivated people (Nobel, grades, etc) prioritize fitting in over discovering nature.

Oct 23, 2012
In the world of consensus-based science, we're expected to all agree on a fictitious view of the modern scientist, as somebody ...

(1) Who would always eagerly diverge from consensus if they discovered it to be wrong, even if that means they would be branded as heretics, lose their jobs, get kicked out of their PhD program ...

(2) Who are never susceptible to groupthink, in spite of the many lessons in the history of science which demonstrate it has been a consistent problem, and in spite of the failure of the textbooks to even discuss most of the longest-standing controversies in science.

(3) Who can speak meaningfully on interdisciplinary topics even though they have only been trained as a specialist.

(4) Who always favor the simplest theory, even as they refuse to consider competing scientific frameworks at the inferential step. It begs the question: At what point in the process does mainstream consider that this enormously speculative structure they've built might be wrong?

Oct 23, 2012
Re: "I am part of the worldwide conspiracy to keep you down and the truth from being known. :D"

What I see when I interact with people online is that those who like to imagine that people must secretively collaborate in order to fool others have yet to discover the role of their own subconscious minds in their own actions. The truth is that wherever you see stability in thought within people or organizations, that stability only exists because it is in tension between two opposing forces. Rational thought is oftentimes in tension with the subconscious mind.

People who refer to conspiracy theories tend not to know much about psychology or sociology. The truth is that everything which is needed to deceive individuals or societies is already present in our own minds.

Oct 23, 2012
Socialized mindsets -- those who tend to follow the crowd -- will generally be a subject of their own thoughts. They read something and then *become* that thought. They are susceptible to external motivators (money, Nobel prizes, grades, advertising) and social constructions like consensus science.

By contrast, the self-authoring mindset is able to develop its own worldview. Their thoughts are objects which the mind can manipulate. They are not afraid to hold views which diverge from the mainstream. If they see a better theory, they are more likely to realize it and switch allegiances.

The most complex thinker is the self-transforming mindset, who is able to question and critique their own thoughts, hold contradictions and see the world through competing worldviews. This is the ultimate form of critical thinking.

Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey have demonstrated that less than 1% of the population is capable of a self-transforming mindset.

Oct 23, 2012
It's dangerous and even half-hearted to imagine that we can understand the universe and its origins all the way to the first few milliseconds after the Big Bang, without fully understanding the instruments we use to observe it all -- our minds. When a person is unable to even admit to others that their thoughts are in tension between opposing forces, it increases the chances that one of the two forces is operating beneath the surface of rationality, at the level of the subconscious. The only meaningful way to approach science is through a complete awareness and realization of all of the SOCIAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL forces which tug at a person's belief system.

The mere mention of conspiracy within a thread is nearly always an admission that a person believes that they could not possibly deceive themselves in their pursuit of truth. It's a subtle indication to others that they are not tuned into the complexities of the social world which they exist in.

Oct 23, 2012
i guess if you cant dispute what a2g said about experiments 6 ranting posts about science being against you is the best you can do hannes? its pathetic. seriously man, you are not helping your case by these batshit insane rants of yours!

Oct 23, 2012

Neutron stars (which violate the island of stability) - HannesAlfven

Moron. Models of atoms are complicated enough that they don't include gravity in the calculations. And even with gravity's omission there's limited agreement on where the island is. The models used to probe the island of stability simply have nothing to say about the stability of neutron star material.

Oct 23, 2012
"...the self-authoring mindset is able to develop its own worldview. Their thoughts are objects which the mind can manipulate. They are not afraid to hold views which diverge from the mainstream. If they see a better theory, they are more likely to realize it and switch allegiances."

So, again, why doesn't Halton Arp see that EU "theory" is better and openly endorse it? Who cares that hasn't met Thornhill. He can read and evaluate published work, can't he? If EU is the superior theory, why does Arp reject it? Obviously it can't be because he can't think "outside of the box" or is afraid of peer pressure. Here's a professional astronomer who has spent a lifetime doing research, some of it in direct opposition to the consensus science, who does not endorse EU. EU wholly embraces his unconventional research yet you want to dance around his rejection of EU.

In fact, how many professional astronomers (not EEs or plasma physicists) currently endorse EU? Way fewer than a dozen.

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