New research into supermassive black holes has left astronomers scratching their heads — and has some excited that the findings may reveal information about the underlying structure of the universe. While studying a group of 64 distant galaxies blasting out radio waves, scientists were surprised to find that about a dozen were spewing jets of gas roughly aligned with one another. At the center of each of these galaxies is a supermassive black hole, with a magnetic field that launches falling debris into outer space. And the fact that all of these galaxies are aligned in the same direction has some interesting implications.
The galaxies in question are spread over roughly a hundred million light-years, so it doesn’t make much sense that they could be connected — unless there is an underlying scaffolding to the universe which influenced how they formed. An upcoming study, to be published in the June Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters explores this idea, speculating that regions where galaxies tend to congregate, called “galactic filaments,” may actually indicate a greater structure to the universe and influence these supermassive black holes, and the galaxies surrounding them, to spin in the same direction.
This isn’t the first time astronomers have observed this phenomenon. Other researchers have also found similar alignments when searching. However, both studies have relied on a fairly small number of galaxies, so other scientists are urging caution in drawing conclusions from the results too soon.
Given the seemingly infinite number of galaxies in the universe, it’s possible these results are a fluke and hold no statistical significance. It’s also possible that the seeming alignment isn’t really there at all — if the galaxies observed are at varying distances from Earth, we might not be getting an accurate picture of what direction they’re actually facing. Still, it’s an intriguing idea, and one that we hope researchers will continue to study for years to come.
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