Astronomers have discovered a gargantuan galaxy. Alcyoneus is a massive radio galaxy 3 billion light-years away that extend 5 megaparsecs into space.
This structure is 16.3 million light-years long and is the biggest known structure of galactic origin.
The revelation demonstrates our lack of understanding of these colossi and what causes their phenomenal development. However, it may pave the way to a deeper knowledge of not only massive radio galaxies but also the intergalactic medium that floats in the vast gaps of space.
Giant radio galaxies are just one more enigma in a Universe full of mysteries. They are made up of a host galaxy (a cluster of stars around a galactic nucleus containing a supermassive black hole) and huge jets and lobes that erupt from the galactic core. When these jets and lobes contact the intergalactic medium, they operate as a synchrotron, accelerating electrons that emit radio emissions.
Astronomers found Alcyoneus after processing the data collected by the LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR) in Europe. The astronomers, responsible for this discovery, wrote: “We have discovered what is in projection the largest known structure made by a single galaxy – a giant radio galaxy with a projected proper length [of] 4.99 ± 0.04 megaparsecs. The true proper length is at least … 5.04 ± 0.05 megaparsecs,”
Astronomers believe that Alcyoneus is still growing even bigger, far away in the cosmic dark. The research has been accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics, and is available on arXiv.