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Space Scoop
Rise of the Radio Phoenix

Do you know the story of the phoenix? The phoenix is a mythical golden bird that lives for hundreds of years. When it grows old and frail, it bursts into flames and is reborn from the ashes to begin the cycle again.

It's not often that fairy tales come to life, particularly not tales as dramatic as that of the phoenix. But the Universe holds many wonders and astronomers have just witnessed a long-dead region of space "coming back to life". Much like the mythical phoenix!

This real-life fairy tale begins billions of years ago, when a distant supermassive black hole burst violently into life. It began to blast out enormous jets of high-energy particles. The jets were so powerful that their particles spread out over hundreds of thousands of light years, making a bright cloud.

For several million years the cloud shone proudly and brightly across space, not in visible light but in radio light. Until eventually the cloud ran out of energy and faded into darkness again.

...But the story doesn't end there.

Many years later another violent event occurred near this giant cloud when two clusters of galaxies crashed into each other.

The collision sent out a shock wave so powerful that it acted on the cloud like someone squeezing a bottle of fizzy pop. Instead of causing pop to shoot from the cloud, the additional energy caused the cloud to once again shine. The radio phoenix was born.

A new portrait of this radio phoenix can be seen above. The shining cloud is the green squiggle just below the centre of the picture.

Cool fact: Many astronomical objects emit radio waves, but this wasn't discovered until 1932!


This is a kids' version of Chandra Release Abell 1033 (August 26, 2015)

Do you want to learn more about this topic?

Visit the Chandra field guide or send us your questions in an email: cxcpub@cfa.harvard.edu




In cooperation with Space Scoop: Bringing news from across the Universe to children all around the world. Universe Awareness and the Chandra X-ray Observatory


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