A relic from a billion-year-old collision.
Galaxies are often spread apart from each other by millions of light years.
But sometimes gravity draws together clusters of hundreds to thousands of galaxies in a close formation.
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And when entire galaxy clusters get too close to each other, gravity can wind them in tighter until they’re unable to escape.
This results in extremely powerful collisions whose aftermath we can still observe today.
The aftermath of that collision also created the largest cosmic shock wave that radio telescopes can observe from Earth.
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On Wednesday, researchers reported new, detailed views of the shock wave in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
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Using the MeerKAT radio telescope at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, they pieced together a fiery display of fast-moving particles that span 6.5 million light years.
Here are three views of Abell 3667’s massive shock wave:
Studying this cosmic remnant could reveal the earliest days of galaxy formation — and some of the most powerful events that shaped the universe today.
“These structures are full of surprises and much more complex than what we initially thought.”
Francesco de Gasperin, lead study author, in a statement