Space will be like a garden
This record-breaking megamassor is the most distant observed within 5 billion light-years of Earth.
The light emitted by a space laser has traveled 36 trillion miles (58 trillion km) to reach our planet.
An international team of astronomers, led by Marcin Glowacki, observed this light using the MeerKAT telescope at the Radio Astronomy Observatory in South Africa. (MeerKAT is an acronym for Karoo Array Telescope, prefixed with the Afrikaans word for “more”).
Glowacki is a research associate at the Curtin University Center for International Radio Astronomy Research in Australia.
Megamasers are formed when two galaxies collide. This is the first hydroxyl megamaser that Meerkat has noticed, Glowaki said.
Hydroxl, a chemical group consisting of a hydrogen atom and an oxygen atom, can be found within galactic mergers.
“When galaxies collide, the gas within them becomes very dense and can emit focused beams of light,” Glowicki said in a statement.
The research team named the laser Nkalakatha, which means “great leader” in isiZulu, the Bantu language of the Zulu people of South Africa.
Astronomers discovered Megamasers on the first night of a study of more than 3,000 hours of observation using MeerKAT.
“It’s quite impressive that in just one night of observations we actually found a record-breaking gigantic,” Glowaki said. “It shows how good the telescope is.”
The research team continues to use MeerKAT to look closely at narrow areas of the sky and search for the same items that were spied on the Megamaser. This may lead to a better understanding of how the universe evolved.
“We have planned follow-up observations of megamasers and hope to make more discoveries,” Glowaki said.
The MeerKAT telescope, located in the Karoo region of South Africa, consists of an array of 64 radio antennas and has been in operation since July 2018. The strong telescope is sensitive to weak radio light.
MeerKAT is a precursor to the Transcontinental Square Kilometer Array, or SKA, a telescope being built in South Africa and Australia.
The array will include thousands of dishes and up to one million low-frequency antennas with the goal of building the world’s largest radio telescope.
Although these dishes and antennas will be in different parts of the world, together they will make a telescope that will have more than one square kilometer (0.39 square miles) of assembly area. As a result, astronomers can scan the entire sky much faster than other telescopes.
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