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Cosmic web found with shock waves by astronomers

Cosmic web – Since galaxies, stars, and other phenomena have yet to be explored, the grandeur of space continues to be unknown.

For the time being, scientists can only see through the use of the technological lens.

The same method was used to discover the cosmic web, a huge tangle of galaxies, gas, and dark matter that comprises the visible universe.

A shock wave has been spotted flowing across the strands of the cosmic web by scientists.

The discovery

Hundreds of thousands of radio telescope photos were combined by astronomers, revealing a faint light caused by shock waves that carry charged particles through the magnetic fields that run across the cosmic web.

On February 17th, the observations were published in the journal Science Advances.

They hypothesized that finding the shock waves will aid astronomers in better understanding large-scale magnetic fields.

Yet, the characteristics and origins remain unknown.

While not engaged in the study, Marcus Brüggen, an astrophysicist at the University of Hamburg in Germany, said the findings allow astronomers to confirm what models have previously revealed, namely the presence of shock waves.


Galaxies are not uniformly dispersed, contrary to popular perception.

Instead, ropy strands of dark matter, dilute gas, and galaxies unite them in massive clusters separated mostly by empty space.

Filaments and clusters are populated by tugged gravity, merging galaxy clusters, colliding filaments, and gas from falling voids.

Massive shock waves are created on a regular basis in and along filaments during cosmic web simulations.

Despite the fact that cosmic webs are largely made up of filaments, they are so much more difficult to find than galaxies.

Shock waves

Although scientists have previously found shock waves in galaxy clusters, Reinout van Weeren of the Netherlands claims that filament shocks have never been recorded.

“But they should be basically all around the cosmic web,” said van Weeren.

Magnetic fields that traverse the cosmic web accelerate charged particles through filament shock waves.

If this happens, particles emit light at frequencies only observable to radio telescopes.

The transmissions, on the other hand, are often rather weak.

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Building the image

Tessa Vernstrom, a radio astronomer at Australia’s International Institute for Radio Astronomy, stressed that detecting a single shock wave in a filament was impossible.

“It’d look like noise,” she added.

Tessa Vernstrom and colleagues combined radio pictures from over 600,000 pairs of galaxy clusters that were near enough to have been linked by filaments to generate a single “stacked” image.

It enhanced the weaker signals, exposing a dim radio light emitted by the filaments that connected the clusters.

“When you can dig below the noise and still actually get a result – to me, that’s personally exciting,” said Vernstrom.

Despite its vagueness, the signal is very divisive.

It also means that radio waves are often parallel to one another.

Shock waves

According to van Weeren, highly polarized lights are a rare occurrence that may be explained by radio light created by shock waves.

“So that’s really, I think, very good evidence for the fact that the shocks are likely indeed present.”

Furthermore, the most recent revelation goes beyond the validation of cosmic web modeling simulations.

Polarized radio emissions can provide an indirect perspective of the magnetic fields that exist throughout the universe.

“These shocks are really able to show that there are large-scale magnetic fields that form [something] like a sheath around these filaments,” said Marcus Brüggen.

Additionally, the most recent discovery extends beyond the validity of models of cosmic webs.

Polarized radio emissions can offer an indirect view of the magnetic fields that exist everywhere around the cosmos.

“It’s one of the four fundamental forces of nature, right? Magnetism,” said Vernstrom.

“But at least on these large scales, we don’t really know how important it is.”

Image source: ESA/Hubble

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