For the first time, astronomers have caught a glimpse of shock waves rippling along strands of the cosmic web — the enormous tangle of galaxies, gas and dark matter that fills the observable universe.
Combining hundreds of thousands of radio telescope images revealed the faint glow cast as shock waves send charged particles flying through the magnetic fields that run along the cosmic web. Spotting these shock waves could give astronomers a better look at these large-scale magnetic fields, whose properties and origins are largely mysterious, researchers report in the Feb. 17 Science Advances.
Finally, astronomers “can confirm what so far has only been predicted by simulations — that these shock waves exist,” says astrophysicist Marcus Brüggen of the University of Hamburg in Germany, who was not involved in the new study.
At its grandest scale, our universe looks something like Swiss cheese. Galaxies aren’t distributed evenly through space but rather are clumped together in enormous clusters connected by ropy …