Physicists are puzzled by a distant galaxy that has undergone a dramatic shift in its orientation. PBC J2333.9-2343, a large galaxy located about 4 million light-years away, was previously classified as a radio galaxy, meaning that its massive jets of radiation were perpendicular to our line of sight.
However, recent research published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society has reclassified the galaxy as a blazar, which means that the black hole’s jets are now pointed directly at Earth.
This marks a significant shift in the angle of the jets, causing researchers to conduct further observations to understand why this happened.
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Lorena Hernández-García, an astrophysicist at the Millennium Institute of Astrophysics, and her colleagues observed PBC J2333.9-2343 across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma-rays.
They found that the galaxy exhibited characteristics typical of blazars, such as brightening and dimming and similar jets.
The researchers also observed two lobes where some jets had previously made their mark. These lobes are “very old,” according to Hernández-García, and they represent the relics of past activity, while the structures located closer to the nucleus represent younger and active jets.
These dormant lobes provide evidence that the jets have indeed changed direction.
It is not uncommon for a galaxy’s jets to appear in different places, but prior examples involved two sets of lobes, indicating two separate jets turning on and off.
In the case of PBC J2333.9-2343, it appears that there is only one source of activity, and it has changed direction. Astronomers are still working to understand what caused this shift.
Current theories suggest that a galaxy merger may have occurred, where another large galaxy collided with PBC J2333.9-2343, jostling the orientation of everything within it.
However, more observations are needed to determine the exact cause of this mystery.
Overall, the shift in the orientation of PBC J2333.9-2343’s jets has provided new insights into the behavior of active galactic nuclei and blazars.
Continued research into this phenomenon may lead to a better understanding of the processes that occur in these massive structures and the potential implications for our understanding of the universe.