Mysterious Filaments Point to Milky Way's Center


| LAST UPDATE 06/05/2023

By Stanley Wickens
Milky Way cosmic filaments
Dulyanut Swdp via Getty Images

Astrophysicists have made a new, exciting discovery when investigating the mystery filaments floating in space around the Milky Way's heart. They have found a new population of filaments that are pointing towards the galactic center and aligned along the galactic plane. These magnetic strands are believed to be the remnants of an outflow from Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole, which collided with the surrounding gas a few million years ago, according to Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, astrophysicist at Northwestern University.

The discovery of these new filaments suggests that our galaxy's center has been active recently. Although Sgr A* is currently not very active, the remnants of these filaments imply wild and wooly secrets lurking within our galaxy's center. "It was a surprise to suddenly find a new population of structures that seem to be pointing in the direction of the black hole," says Yusef-Zadeh. This new population of galactic harp strings was discovered using data collected by the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa. The team found around hundreds of structures of approximately 5 to 10 light-years in length, lying horizontally to the galactic plane, and emitting thermal radiation. These new structures seem to be radially arranged on one side of the galactic center and pointing back toward Sagittarius A*.

cosmic filaments space mystery
Handout / Handout via Getty Images
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Yusef-Zadeh and his team believe that these newly discovered filaments could be the result of pressure produced by a jet-driven outflow from Sgr A*. Their analysis suggests that this took place around six million years ago. "We think they must have originated with some kind of outflow from an activity that happened a few million years ago," says Yusef-Zadeh. Although vertical filaments in the galactic center have previously been found, this discovery is a novelty as it raises new implications about the orientation of the accretion disk and jet-driven outflow from Sagittarius A* along the galactic plane. It suggests that we still have much to discover about the history and dynamics of our galaxy's center, given that new structures continue to emerge as technology improves.

Yusef-Zadeh concludes that "our work is never complete," and that "we always need to make new observations and continually challenge our ideas and tighten up our analysis." This discovery provides more insight into Sagittarius A* and the surrounding gas and will allow for more research and discoveries in the future.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below