A series of mysterious space objects were discovered in 2020 with scientists now able to identify them as ‘odd radio circles’ (ORC) after capturing a detailed image of the event.
The picture was taken by the MeerKAT radio telescope at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory where scientists say that “ORCs are rings of faint radio emissions surround a galaxy with a highly active black hole at its centre” according to CSIRO Professor Ray Norris. Originally the ORCs were found by the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope at CSIRO with experts spending the last two years theorising on what causes the space circles.
According to CSIRO there are three theories that specialists believe might cause ORCs. They could be the remnant of a huge explosion at the centre of their host galaxy, like the merger of two supermassive black holes, powerful jets of energetic particles spewing out of the galaxy’s centre; or the result of a starburst ‘termination shock’ from the production of stars in the galaxy.
Although there is still much to discover, scientists can detail that the space rings measure approximately a million light-years across which is 16 times the size of our milky way. They also believe that it takes a billion years for them to reach their optimum size with Study Author Jordan Collier pointing out that this new discovery has excited many people.
“People often want to explain their observations and show that it aligns with our best knowledge. To me, it’s much more exciting to discover something new, that defies our current understanding,” they said.
Only five ORCs have previously been recorded but astronomers believe that they will find out more about the objects once the SKA telescopes are operational.
“No doubt the SKA telescopes, once built, will find many more ORCs and be able to tell us more about the lifecycle of galaxies,” Professor Norris said.
“Until the SKA becomes operational, ASKAP and MeerKAT are set to revolutionise our understanding of the Universe faster than ever before.”