News ID: 139382
Published: 0310 GMT April 12, 2016

Astronomers find unusual alignment of supermassive black holes

Astronomers find unusual alignment of supermassive black holes

Scientists have found a cluster of supermassive black holes in the distant universe, all spinning out radio jets in the same direction.

It's the first time astronomers have identified an alignment of such dramatic proportion. The succession of galactic jets are distantly spaced, occupying a significant expanse of outer space, UPI wrote.

Because these aligned jets are born of galaxies and black holes too far apart to significantly influence each other, their coordination is likely the result of the evolution of the primordial universe.

A team of South African researchers hypothesize that the transition from a smaller primordial universe to the large-scale structure of today's universe produced a consistent spin rate. Inspired by mass fluctuations during this early transition, the spin rate directed these early galactic radio jets in the same direction.

The astronomers didn't set out to find such an alignment. They were simply looking for the faintest radio signals in the universe. Their search tools were the South African MeerKAT radio telescope and the Square Kilometre Array — one the largest radio telescopes in the world and one of the most powerful instruments.

"GMRT is one of the largest and most sensitive radio telescope arrays in the world, but we really need MeerKAT to make the very sensitive maps, over a very large area and with great detail, that will be necessary to differentiate between possible explanations," Andrew Russ Taylor, an astronomer at the University of Cape Town, explained in a news release. "It opens up a whole new research area for these instruments, which will probe as deeply into the and as far back as we can go — it's going to be an exciting time to be an astronomer."

How the large-scale structure of the universe came about in the wake of the Big Bang is still one of cosmology's great mysteries. But the latest revelation — detailed in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society — promises to improve the models simulating the universe's early evolution.

"We're beginning to understand how the large-scale structure of the universe came about," explained Taylor, "starting from the Big Bang and growing as a result of disturbances in the early universe, to what we have today, and that helps us explore what the universe of tomorrow will be like."

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