These filaments are hidden in the core of the Milky Way galaxy, a discovery made by astronomers for the first time.
In the 1980s, they were discovered as a single filament hanging vertically near Sagittarius A*, the central supermassive black hole of our galaxy. The new analysis has uncovered a complete population of these filaments that radiate from the black hole like spokes on a wheel.
In The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Farhad Yusef-Zadeh of Northwestern University describes the evidence for a distinct population of short filaments with PA close to the Galactic plane.
“It was unexpected to discover a new population of structures that appear to be pointing toward the black hole. I was actually astonished upon seeing these.
In the 1980s, Farhad Yusef-Zadeh discovered these enigmatic structures for the first time. “We had to do a lot of work to prove that we weren’t fooling ourselves,” he explained.
Mysterious structures discovered deep within the Milky Way galaxy
Previously, the astronomer had discovered two enormous radio-emitting clouds close to the black hole Sagittarius A*. He used the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (SARAO) MeerKAT telescope to locate the filaments by eliminating the background from MeerKAT images and smoothing out the noise.
“We have always contemplated the origin of vertical filaments. I’m accustomed to seeing them vertical. “I never imagined there might be other passengers on the plane,” he said.
The vertical filaments are oriented vertically with respect to the galaxy, whereas the horizontal filaments are parallel to the galaxy’s plane. The vertical filaments are magnetic and relativistic, which means that they are characterized by intense magnetic forces and particles travelling at nearly the speed of light.
The horizontal filaments, on the other hand, appear to emanate thermal radiation and accelerate material in a molecular cloud. Horizontal filaments range in length from 5 to 10 light-years, whereas vertical filaments can reach heights of up to 150 light-years.
The team hypothesizes that these enigmatic structures may have originated from some sort of activity that occurred several million years ago.
“It appears to be the consequence of this material’s interaction with nearby objects. Our labor is never finished. Farhad Yusef-Zadeh added, “We must always make new observations, continually challenge our ideas, and refine our analysis.”
The team stated that these structures could reveal more information about the spin and orientation of the black hole’s accretion disk.