Snake-Like Filament Discovered In The Center Of Milky Way

Posted: Dec 23 2017, 1:16am CST | by , Updated: Dec 23 2017, 1:19am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Snake-Like Filament Discovered in the Center of Milky Way
A radio image showing the filament in the center of our galaxy. Credit: NSF/VLA/UCLA/M. Morris et al

The weird cosmic filament is curved in a way that it points right at our galaxy's black hole, Sagittarius A

Astronomers have found a snake-like structure lurking inside our galaxy Milky Way. The filament structure is about 2.3 light years long. Its shape is curvy and it appears to be pointing directly toward the supermassive massive black hole called Sagittarius A*, which is located at the center of Milky Way.

The unusual filament was originally detected in 2016 but researchers were never able to get the detailed view of the structure. Now, a team, led by University of California researcher, has used a pioneering technique to create the highest-quality image yet obtained of the object.

"With our improved image, we can now follow this filament much closer to the Galaxy's central black hole, and it is now close enough to indicate to us that it must originate there," said lead researcher Mark Morris of the University of California, Los Angeles. "However, we still have more work to do to find out what the true nature of this filament is."

Researchers are not exactly sure why snake-like filament lies there but they came up with various explanations. The first is that the filament could be the result of high-speed particles being kicked away from the black hole. Another possibility is that the filament is a cosmic string. Cosmic strings are hypothetical objects that may have formed in the early Universe, but none of them have been detected yet. However, researchers suggest that cosmic strings, if they exist, would migrate to the centers of galaxies. The final option is that the black hole and the filament may be completely unrelated and position and the direction of the filament aligning with the black hole are mere coincident. However, such a coincidence is highly unlikely.

“Part of the thrill of science is stumbling across a mystery that is not easy to solve," said co-author Jun-Hui Zhao of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "While we don't have the answer yet, the path to finding it is fascinating. This result is motivating astronomers to build next generation radio telescopes with cutting edge technology."

In the future, researchers are hoping to get even more detailed images of the strange structure, so the questions about its origin can be fully addressed.

“We will keep hunting until we have a solid explanation for this object," said co-author Miller Goss, from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico. "And we are aiming to next produce even better, more revealing images."

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