Unprecedented new telescope image reveals nearly 1,000 mysterious filaments at the center of the Milky Way

“A turning point in advancing our understanding of this structure,” the researchers said.

Unprecedented new telescope image from

Milky Way
The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Earth, and is named for its appearance from Earth. It is a barred spiral galaxy that contains an estimated 100-400 billion stars and has a diameter between 150,000 and 200,000 light-years.

“>Bima Sakti The turbulent center of the galaxy has revealed nearly 1,000 mysterious strands, hanging mysteriously in space.

Stretching for up to 150 light-years, one-dimensional strings (or strings) are found in pairs and groups, often stacked at the same distance, side by side like the strings on a harp. Using observations at radio wavelengths,

Northwestern University
Established in 1851, Northwestern University (NU) is a private research university based in Evanston, Illinois, United States. Northwestern is known for its McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Kellogg School of Management, Feinberg School of Medicine, Pritzker School of Law, Bienen School of Music, and Medill School of Journalism. 

“>Northwestern UniversityHighly organized magnetic filaments were invented by Farhad Yousefzadeh in the early 1980s. He discovered that the mysterious filament was composed of cosmic ray electrons that moved a magnetic field at speeds close to the speed of light. But their origins have remained an unsolved mystery ever since.

Now, new images have revealed ten times more leads than previously found, allowing Yousefzadeh and his team to conduct a statistical study on multiple prospects for the first time. This information will likely help them solve an old mystery.

This study is now available online and has been accepted for publication by Astrophysics Journal Letter.[1]

Farhad Yousefzadeh. Credit: Northwestern University

“We have been studying individual strands for a long time from a myopic perspective,” said Yousefzadeh, lead author of the paper. “Now, we finally see the big picture – a panoramic view filled with lots of filaments. Just examining a few filaments makes it difficult to draw any real conclusions about what they are and where they come from. This is a turning point in furthering our understanding of this structure.”

Youssefzadeh is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern University’s Weinberg School of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA).

picture maker

To create an image with unprecedented clarity and detail, astronomers spent three years scanning the sky and analyzing data at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO). Using 200 hours of time on the MeerKAT SARAO telescope, the researchers assembled a mosaic of 20 separate observations from different parts of the sky towards the center of the Milky Way, 25,000 light-years from Earth.

The full description will be published in the attached supplementary sheet[2] – Led by Oxford University astrophysicist Ian Heywood and co-written by Yousefzadeh – in an upcoming issue Astrophysics Journal. In addition to the filaments, the images capture radio emission from many phenomena, including stellar explosions, stellar nurseries, and new supernova remnants.

We have been studying single strands for a long time from a myopic perspective. Now, we finally see the big picture – a panoramic view filled with many threads. This is a turning point in advancing our understanding of this structure.”
Farhad Yousefzadeh, astrofisikawan

“I spent a lot of time looking at this drawing while working on it, and I never got bored,” Heywood said. “When I show this image to people who may be new to radio astronomy, or are unfamiliar with it, I always try to emphasize that radio imaging has not always been this way, and is truly a leap forward in terms of capabilities. been a privilege to work for. Over the years, the colleagues from Sarao built this extraordinary telescope.”

To display the leads on a finer scale, Yousafzadeh’s team used a technique to remove the background from the main image to isolate the leads from the surrounding structure. The resulting image surprised him.

“It’s like modern art,” he said. “These images are so beautiful and rich, and the mystery that surrounds them makes them all the more interesting.”

What we know

While many mysteries surrounding the threads remain, Yousefzadeh manages to piece together more puzzles. In their latest study, he and his colleagues specifically explored the magnetic field of filaments and the role of cosmic rays in illuminating magnetic fields.

The variations in the radiation emitted by the filaments differ markedly from the recently discovered supernova remnants, suggesting that the phenomenon had different origins. Researchers may find that the filaments are linked to past activity of the Milky Way’s central supermass

black hole
A black hole is a place in space where the pull of gravity is so strong not even light can escape it. Astronomers classify black holes into three categories by size: miniature, stellar, and supermassive black holes. Miniature black holes could have a mass smaller than our Sun and supermassive black holes could have a mass equivalent to billions of our Sun.

“>Black hole Instead of a coordinated explosion from a supernova. The prospect can also be attributed to the massive radio transmitter bubble, which Yousefzadeh and his collaborators discovered in 2019.

And while Youssefzadeh already knew that threads were magnetized, he could now tell that the magnetic field was amplified along the length of the thread, a fundamental property that all threads had.

“This is the first time we have been able to study the statistical properties of filaments,” he said. By studying statistics, we can learn more about the properties of this unusual source.

“If you are from another planet, for example, and you meet a very tall person on Earth, you might assume that everyone is tall. But if you do statistics for a group of people, you can find the average height. That’s exactly what we do. We can find the strength of the magnetic field, its length, direction and spectrum of radiation.”

What do we not know?

Among the remaining mysteries, Youssefzadeh was very confused as to how the thread had emerged. The threads in the cluster are separated from each other at exactly the same distance – roughly the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

set like a harp

Set like a harp. Credit: Northwestern University

“It’s like the regular spacing of the sun’s rings,” he said. We still don’t know why they came in groups or understand how they split up, nor do we know how this regular spacing came about. Every time we answer one question, several other questions arise.”

Yousefzadeh and his team still don’t know if the filaments move or change over time or what causes the electrons to accelerate at dizzying speeds.

“How can you accelerate electrons to near the speed of light?” requested. “One idea is that there is some source at the end of this filament that accelerates these particles.”

Then, how

Youssefzadeh and his team are currently working to identify and index each thread. The angle, curve, magnetic field, spectrum and intensity of each filament will be published in future studies. Understanding these properties will give the astrophysics community more clues about the elusive nature of the strands.

The MeerKAT telescope, launched in July 2018, will continue to uncover new secrets.

“We are definitely one step closer to a more complete understanding,” Yousefzadeh said. But science is a series of advances at different levels. We hope to get to the bottom of this issue, but more observations and theoretical analysis are needed. It takes time to fully understand complex things.”


  1. “Statistical Characteristics of the Galactic Center Filament Population: Spectral Index and Equivalent Magnetic Field” By F. Yusef-Zadeh, RG Arendt, M. Wardle, I. Heywood, WD Cotton and F. Camilo, Accepted Astrophysics Journal Letter.
    arXiv: 2201.10552
  2. “Mosaik Pusat Galaxy MeerKAT at 1.28 GHz” Oleh I.Hywood, I. Rammala, F. Camilo, WD Cotton, F. Yusef-Zadeh, TD Abbott, RM Adam, G. Adams, MA Aldera, KMB Asad, EF Bauermeister, TGH Bennett, HL Bester, WA Bode, DH Botha, AG Botha, LRS Brederode, S. Buchner, JP Burger, T. Cheetham, DIL de Villiers, MA Dikgale-Mahlakoana, LJ du Toit, SWP Esterhuyse, BL Fanaroff, S. Februari, DJ Fourie, BS Frank, RRG Gamatham, M. Geyer, S. Goedhart, M. Gouws, SC Gumede, MJ Hlakola, A. Hokwana, SW Hoosen, JMG Horrell, B. Hugo, AI Isaacson, GIG Józsa , JL Jonas, AF Joubert, RPM Julie, FB Kapp, JS Kenyon, PPA Kotzé, N. Kriek, H. Kriel, VK Krishnan, R. Lehmensiek, D. Liebenberg, RR Lord, BM Lunsky, K. Madisa, LG Magnus , O. Mahgoub, A. Makhaba, S. Makhathini, JA Malan, JR Manley, SJ Marais, A. Martens, T. Mauch, BC Merry, RP Millenaar, N. Mnyandu, OJ Mokone, TE Monama, MC Mphego, WS Ngcebetsha, KJ Ngoasheng, MT Ockards, N. Oozeer, AJ Otto, SS Passmoor, AA Patel, A. Peens-Hough, SJ Perkins, AJT Ramaila, NMR Ramanujam, ZR Ramudzuli, SM Ratcliffe, AS Robyntjies, A. Robyntjies, N Sambu, CTG Schollar, LC Schwardt, RR Schwartz, M. Serylak, R. Siebrits, SK Sirothia, M. Slabber, OM Smirnov, L. Sophia, B. Talgard, C. Tass, AJ Tibladi, O. Torovanda, SN Toom, TJ Van Balla, A. Van der Bell, C. Van der Merwe, V. Van Tonder, R. Van Wyk, AG Venter, M. Venter, BH Wallace, MG Welz, LP Williams and B. Xaia, Diterima, Astrophysics Journal Letter.
    arXiv: 2201.10541

The study on “Statistical properties of the galaxy’s central filament population: the same spectral and magnetic field indices” is supported.

Established in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. It’s vision is “To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.”

“> NASA National Science Foundation.

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