Mysterious Circular Rings: Astronomers Keeps Finding in the Sky

In the last few decades, astronomers have seen a couple of gigantic and almost perfectly circular radio objects out in the remote world. Though no one has an excuse for all these mysterious things yet, a team has recently added another one to their catalog, potentially moving them closer to solving this head-scratcher.

The enigma started shortly after the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), banking 36 colossal dishes in Western Australia that scan the skies in the radio section of the electromagnetic spectrum.

ASKAP scientists were mainly looking for smart resources that could indicate the presence of black holes or huge galaxies glowing in waves. But some in the team are constantly on the hunt” for anything is weird, whatever is new, and anything resembles nothing else,” Bärbel Koribalski, a galactic astronomer in Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Western Sydney University in Australia, advised Live Science.

In the statistics, group member Anna D. Kapińska of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico, seen four bright radio circles, Koribalski remembered, though initially, the remainder of the investigators ignored them as a familiar occurrence.

But when telescopes tried to examine the objects in different wavelengths, such as the optical light our eyes use to see, they turned up empty, causing the team to dub them odd radio circles (ORCs).Even stranger, every one of those ORCs had a galaxy perched almost exactly in its center, like a bullseye. The astronomers could determine the entities were every several billion light-years away and potentially as big as a couple of million light-years in diameter.

No one had seen anything like these before, and also in a newspaper published this past year, the group offered 11 potential explanations about what they might be, such as imaging glitches, warps in space-time called Einstein rings, or even a new sort of remnant out of a supernova explosion.

The researchers have since scanned the heavens with ASKAP and found yet another ORC to add to their collection, a thing about 1 million light-years across situated approximately 3 billion light-years away. They posted their findings on April 27 into the preprint database arXiv, and they have been approved for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The first is that perhaps you will find additional galaxies forming a cluster close to the item and bending bright substance into a ring-like construction. These may simply be too faint to be picked up by current telescopes.

Another possibility is that the central supermassive black hole of those galaxies is swallowing dust and gas, producing humongous, cone-shaped jets of particles and energy. Astronomers have regularly seen such happenings in the world, though normally the jets specialize in this way with Earth which observatories see them as moving from the surfaces of the galaxy.

Perhaps in the case of these ORCs, the jets are just pointing straight towards our planet, Koribalski suggested, therefore that we’re in nature looking down the barrel of a long tube, making a circular, two-dimensional image around a central reef.


“The other explanation is exciting,” she said. “This may be something entirely new.”

It’s possible that some unknown but highly energetic event happened in the center of those galaxies, creating a burst wave that traveled out as a world and resulted in a ring structure. Kowalski isn’t yet certain which type of event could leave such a touch, though maybe it is a previously unknown product of crashing black holes such as the kind seen in gravitational waves at the Big Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the United States.

However, Harish Vedantham, an astronomer at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy that was not associated with the job, favors the easier idea — which the ORCs are a manifestation of a phenomenon that is well-known, and are bright jets shooting out of a galaxy at a seldom seen angle.

Vedantham is guided in this by the principle of Occam’s razor, which favors ordinary explanations over strange, new ones. “You can construct an exotic situation,” he told Live Science. “However, the easiest answer is almost always correct.”

In a similar vein, the chance that an ORC is an imperceptible galactic cluster is not attractive to him because”it is sort of hard to hide a bunch,” he explained. The items are far away, but they are not that far, so at least a couple additional galaxies should be noticeable, he added.

The two Vedantham and Koribalski agree that more telescope observations in different wavelengths should help scientists have a clearer idea of what is going on. New data will be forthcoming in the next six months or so, hopefully adding added ORCs for their catalog, Koribalski explained.

In the meantime, she is somewhat enjoying the puzzle. “You become a detective. You look at each of the clues and weigh them up against each other,” she explained.