Strange “Dancing Ghosts” Point to Surprising New Discoveries in the Cosmos

Dancing Cosmic Ghosts

The ‘dancing ghosts’ are two ‘host’ galaxies, about a billion light-years away. Credit: Jayanne English/EMU/Dark Energy Survey

Researchers from Western Sydney University and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, have discovered strange clouds of electrons surrounding galaxies deep in the cosmos. The clouds, which are about a billion light-years away and have never been seen before, resemble two ghosts dancing.

The ‘dancing ghosts’ were discovered as part of the first deep sky search using CSIRO’s ASKAP (Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder) radio telescope.

The discovery – in a paper accepted this week in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia ( PASA) describing the first Pilot Survey of the EMU (Evolutionary Map of the Universe) project – is one of several objects and phenomena uncovered in the deep search according to lead researcher Professor Ray Norris from Western Sydney University and CSIRO.

“We are getting used to surprises as we scan the skies as part of the EMU Project, and probe deeper into the Universe than any previous telescope. When you boldly go where no telescope has gone before, you are likely to make new discoveries.

“When we first saw the ‘dancing ghosts’ we had no idea what they were. After weeks of work, we figured out we were seeing two ‘host’ galaxies, about a billion light-years away. In their centers are two supermassive black holes, squirting out jets of electrons that are then bent into grotesque shapes by an intergalactic wind.

“New discoveries however always raise new questions and this one is no different. We still don’t know where the wind is coming from? Why it is so tangled? And what is causing the streams of radio emission? It will probably take many more observations and modeling before we understand any of these things,” said Professor Norris.

Dacing Ghosts Galaxies

The two galaxies we think are responsible for the streams of electrons (shown as curved arrows) that form the Dancing Ghosts. But we don’t understand what is causing the filament labeled as 3. Credit: Image by Jayanne English and Ray Norris using data from EMU and the Dark Energy Survey

Other objects and phenomena uncovered so far as part of the EMU Project include the discovery of the mysterious Odd Radio Circles (ORCs) which seem to be giant rings of radio emission nearly a million light-years across, surrounding distant galaxies.

“We are even finding surprises in places we thought we understood. Next door to the well-studied galaxy IC5063, we found a giant radio galaxy, one of the largest known, whose existence had never even been suspected. Its supermassive black hole is generating jets of electrons nearly 5 million light-years long. ASKAP is the only telescope in the world that can see the total extent of this faint emission,” said Professor Norris.

Reference: “The Evolutionary Map of the Universe pilot survey” by Ray P. Norris, Joshua Marvil, J. D. Collier, Anna D. Kapinska, Andrew N. O’Brien, L. Rudnick, Heinz Andernach, Jacobo Asorey, Michael J. I. Brown, Marcus Brüggen, Evan Crawford, Jayanne English, Syed Faisal ur Rahman, Miroslav D. Filipovic, Yjan Gordon, Gülay Gürkan, Catherine Hale, Andrew M. Hopkins, Minh T. Huynh, Kim HyeongHan, M. James Jee, Bärbel S. Koribalski, Emil Lenc, Kieran Luken, David Parkinson, Isabella Prandoni, Wasim Raja, Thomas H. Reiprich, Christopher J. Riseley, Stanislav S. Shabala, Jaimie R. Sheil, Tessa Vernstrom, Matthew T. Whiting, James R. Allison, C. S. Anderson, Lewis Ball, Martin Bell, John Bunton, T. J. Galvin, Neeraj Gupta, Aidan Hotan, Colin Jacka, Peter J. Macgregor, Elizabeth K. Mahony, Umberto Maio Vanessa Moss, M. Pandey-Pommier and Maxim A. Voronkov, 7 September 2021, Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.
DOI: 10.1017/pasa.2021.42

The ASKAP telescope is operated by the CSIRO and forms part of the Australia Telescope National Facility. It uses novel technology to achieve extremely high survey speed, making it one of the best instruments in the world for mapping the sky at radio wavelengths.

EMU is an international team of more than 400 researchers led by Professor Andrew Hopkins of Macquarie University. The EMU Pilot Survey is led by former EMU project leader, Professor Ray Norris from Western Sydney University.

We acknowledge the Wajarri Yamatji as the traditional owners of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory site, on which ASKAP is located.

7 Comments on "Strange “Dancing Ghosts” Point to Surprising New Discoveries in the Cosmos"

  1. As Dear Old Da used to say: The more you LOOK, the more you SEE. The MORE you SEE, the LESS you KNOW. @A BILLION YEARS @ The
    Speed-o-Light, the best ONE can do is SUPPOSE, with SOME DEGREE of accuracy. I mean… it’s not THERE anymore. Might be just outside/inside the front door by NOW. I do appreciate the heads-up, the almost LYRICAL language, AND the other “mysteries” this VISION has exposed. Can’t fault the KNOWLEDGE BASE. And SUPPOSITION is FIRST BASE on the way to KNOWLEDGE… of DEEPER “things”: The Horizontal Mambo with the UNIVERSE.

  2. Miguel Granger | August 11, 2021 at 4:17 am | Reply

    Dark matter is degrading black holes… matter is dark matter with different neutrino concentrations… black holes materials have little to no neutrinos, therefore no space time.. time travel through concentrations of dark matter should be possible… as neutrinos are pushed out of black holes, the screws to make space time or distributed and is interacting with universe border and space is expanding… are we in a black hole??… what is your favorite wine???

    • Torbjörn Larsson | August 12, 2021 at 11:37 am | Reply

      Where is your data?

      Meanwhile, astrophysicists know that, say, dark matter do not “degrade” black holes – if any matter infall happens the black holes grows.

  3. Stop calling them dancing ghosts. Just stop. And stop letting 8 year olds name celestial phenomema?

  4. What do you think it means if you can see all this happening with your naked eyes and feel all that energy too?

    • Torbjörn Larsson | August 15, 2021 at 9:47 am | Reply

      But you can’t, those images are of radio emissions.

      “The ‘dancing ghosts’ were discovered as part of the first deep sky search using CSIRO’s ASKAP (Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder) radio telescope.”

      What it means is also described in the article, which you should read:

      “In their centers are two supermassive black holes, squirting out jets of electrons that are then bent into grotesque shapes by an intergalactic wind.”

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