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There is something strange is lurking in the galactic neighborhood and smart money says its a newly discovered micro-quasar. The unknown object in galaxy M82 12 million light-years away has started sending out radio waves, and the emission does not look like anything seen anywhere in the universe before except perhaps by Ford Prefect. M82 is starburst galaxy five times as bright as the Milky Way and one hundred times as bright as our galaxy's center.
“The new object, which appeared in May 2009, has left us scratching our heads - we’ve never seen anything quite like this before,” said Dr Muxlow. “The object turned on very rapidly within a few days and shows no sign of decaying in brightness over the first few months of its existence. The new young supernova explosions that we were expecting to see in M82 brighten at radio wavelengths over several weeks and then decay over several months, so that explanation seems unlikely.”
“We have just started processing data from an array of 20 radio telescopes across the Earth were taken for the central nuclear region of M82. These images will allow us to examine the structure of the new radio source in detail. However, processing such huge datasets takes significant amounts of computing effort and painstaking work. Only then will we be able to see if it is some rare form of micro-quasar. Watch this space…!” said Muxlow.
Yet it does seem to be moving – and fast: its apparent sideways velocity is four times the speed of light. Such apparent "superluminal" motion has been seen before in high-speed jets of material squirted out by some black holes. The stuff in these jets is moving towards us at a slight angle and travelling at a fair fraction of the speed of light, and the effects of relativity produce a kind of optical illusion that makes the motion appear superluminal.
This phenomenon is caused because the jets are travelling very near the speed of light AND at a very small angle towards the observer. Because at every point of their path they are emiting light and due to their high velocity, the light they emit does not approach the observer much quicker than the jet itself. This causes the light emitted over hundreds of years of travel to not have hundreds of lightyears of distance between it, the light thus arrives at the observer over a much smaller time period (ten or twenty years) giving the illusion of faster than light travel.
This explanation depends on the jet making a sufficiently narrow angle with the observer's line-of-sight to explain the degree of superluminal motion seen in a particular case.