All About Space

Four mysterious objects spotted in deep space

- Words by Mara Johnson-Groh

There’s something unusual lurking out in the depths of space: astronomer­s have discovered four faint objects that at radio wavelength­s are highly circular and brighter along their edges. And they’re unlike any class of astronomic­al object ever seen before. The objects, which look like distant ringshaped islands, have been dubbed odd radio circles (ORCs) for their shape and overall peculiarit­y.

Astronomer­s don’t yet know exactly how far away these ORCs are, but they could be linked to distant galaxies. All the objects were found away from the Milky Way’s galactic plane and are around one arcminute across – as a comparison, the Moon’s diameter is 31 arcminutes.

The astronomer­s offered several possible explanatio­ns for the phenomena, but none quite fits the bill for all four new ORCs. After ruling out objects like supernovae, star-forming galaxies, planetary nebulae and gravitatio­nal lensing – a magnifying effect caused by the bending of spacetime by nearby massive objects – among other things, the astronomer­s speculate that the objects could be shock waves from some extragalac­tic event or possibly activity from a radio galaxy.

“[The objects] may well point to a new phenomenon that we haven’t really probed yet,” said Kristine Spekkens, astronomer at the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University, who was not involved with the new research.

“It may also be that these are an extension of a previously known class of objects that we haven’t been able to explore.”

 ??  ?? Above: It’s still unknown what could be causing the radio circles
Above: It’s still unknown what could be causing the radio circles

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