Watching and recording the jets, which are believed to be only decades old, in their infancy allows researchers to observe their formation and growth and study how they influence their environments.
"Timing and navigation are a fundamental portion of the Navy mission and constitute part of the key infrastructure the DOD relies on," said Henrique Schmitt, Ph.D., an astronomer at NRL. "Understanding the evolution of jets in active galaxies is important for day-to-day tools like GPS. Such active galaxies define the celestial reference frame from which precision timing and positioning are derived."
The team discovered the jets after reviewing images from the Very Large Array Sky Survey (VLASS) that contained unusually bright radio sources in comparison to previous studies with the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in Socorro, New Mexico. Their findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.
"This is a new topic that has yet to be fully explored," said Kristina Nyland, Ph.D., a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow in residence at NRL. "Studying the launching of powerful jets is important for us to understand how galaxies and supermassive black holes grow in tandem over billions of years."
According to Nyland, older jets shine for millions of years and may extend far beyond the confines of their host galaxies, while newborn jets stay within the boundaries of their hosts. Known as the interstellar medium, this area contains the raw materials that give rise to new stars and planetary systems. It is hypothesized newborn jets may interact with these dense clouds of gas and play an important role in galaxy formation and evolution.
"When you have compact, powerful jets of radio plasma colliding with a reservoir of star-forming gas, the jets may alter the efficiency of new stellar births and the future appearance and properties of the galaxy," Nyland said. "Studying young jets in particular is essential for understanding our cosmic origins. It is important for us to measure the rate at which new jets are launched by supermassive black holes to ultimately understand how they influence the lives of the galaxies in which they reside."