A team of Clemson University College of Science researchers, in collaboration with international colleagues, has reported the first definitive detection of a relativistic jet emerging from two colliding galaxies — in essence, the first photographic proof that merging galaxies can produce jets of charged particles that travel at nearly the speed of light. Phys.Org reports: The paper is titled “TXS 2116-077: A gamma-ray emitting relativistic jet hosted in a galaxy merger.” In addition to Paliya, who is now at the Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron (DESY) in Germany, the other Clemson authors include associate professor Marco Ajello, professor Dieter Hartmann, and adjunct professor Stefano Marchesi of the department of physics and astronomy. The fact that the jet is so young enabled the researchers to clearly see its host. According to Ajello, others have already imaged galactic collisions many times. But he and his colleagues are the first to capture two galaxies merging where there is a fully formed jet pointing at us — albeit, a very young one, and thus not yet bright enough to blind us.
Jets were thought to be born from older, elliptical-shaped galaxies with an active galactic nucleus (AGN), which is a super-massive black hole that resides at its center. As a point of reference, scientists believe all galaxies have centrally located super-massive black holes, but not all of them are AGNs. For example, our Milky Way’s massive black hole is dormant. Scientists theorize that the AGNs grow larger by gravitationally drawing in gas and dust through a process called accretion. But not all of this matter gets accreted into the black hole. Some of the particles become accelerated and are spewed outward in narrow beams in the form of jets. Ajello believes that the team’s image captured the two galaxies, a Seyfert 1 galaxy known as TXS 2116-077 and another galaxy of similar mass, as they were colliding for the second time because of the amount of gas seen in the image.
The findings have been published in the Astrophysical Journal.
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