Home Science Space New Research on Giant Radio Galaxies Defies Conventional Wisdom

New Research on Giant Radio Galaxies Defies Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom tells us that large objects appear smaller as they get farther from us, but this fundamental law of classical physics is reversed when we observe the distant universe.

Astrophysicists at Kent simulated the development of the biggest objects in the universe to help explain how galaxies and other cosmic bodies were formed. By looking at the distant universe, it is possible to observe it in a past state, when it was still at a formative stage.

At that time, galaxies were growing and supermassive black holes were violently expelling enormous amounts of gas and energy. This matter accumulated into pairs of reservoirs, which formed the biggest objects in the universe, the so-called giant radio galaxies. These giant radio galaxies stretch across a large part of the universe. Even moving at the speed of light, it would take several million years to cross one.

Professor Michael D. Smith of the Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, part of the School of Physical Sciences, and student Justin Donohoe collaborated on the research. They expected to find that as they simulated objects farther into the distant universe, they would appear smaller, but in fact they found the opposite. Professor Smith said:

Radio galaxies have long been known to be powered by twin jets that inflate their lobes and create giant cavities. The team performed simulations using the Forge supercomputer, generating 3-dimensional hydrodynamics that recreated the effects of these jets.

They then compared the resulting images to observations of the distant galaxies. Differences were assessed using a new classification index, the Limb Brightening Index (LB Index), which measures changes to the orientation and size of the objects. Professor Smith said:

The full research, The Morphological Classification of distant radio galaxies explored with three-dimensional simulations, has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Provided by: Michelle Ulyatt, University of Kent [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

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