TAKE A LOOK | SA's MeerKAT telescope spent 1,000 hours staring into space – here's what it saw
- The MeerKAT radio telescope in the Northern Cape captures electromagnetic radiation emitted by galaxy clusters throughout space.
- This data helps astronomers better understand the formation and evolution of galaxies throughout the universe.
- It also produces unique images of galactic storms and jets of material spewed out of supermassive black holes.
- The MeerKAT Galaxy Cluster Legacy Survey, recently published in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal, is the culmination of 1,000 hours of telescope time focused on 115 galaxy clusters.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
South Africa's MeerKAT radio telescope located near the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon has spent approximately 1,000 hours observing 115 clusters of galaxies. The images and findings have now been published the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal.
The Karoo Array Telescope, now known as the MeerKAT, was launched in 2018. It consists of 64 interlinked receptor dishes that are each 13.5 metres in diameter. The telescope studies distant galaxy clusters by capturing the electromagnetic radiation emitted by ultra-hot gas, electrons, and protons moving close to the speed of light, and dark matter.
The results of the first observatory-led survey using the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory's (SARAO) MeerKAT telescope were published in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal on Thursday.
For a year following its launch, the MeerKAT telescope spent around 1,000 hours studying the radio emission from 115 clusters of galaxies. It took a further two years to convert this raw data into the into radio images.
The MeerKAT Galaxy Cluster Legacy Survey (MGCLS), undertaken by a group of international experts and led by South African researcher Dr Kenda Knowles, presents more than 50 newly discovered patches of radio emissions.
From dramatic storms in galaxy clusters, to jets of material spewed out of supermassive black holes, the survey provides new information on the formation and evolution of galaxies throughout the universe.
"That's what's already enabled us to serendipitously discover rare kinds of galaxies, interactions, and diffuse features of radio emission, many of them quite beautiful," said Knowles, currently a Research Fellow at Rhodes University and a former SARAO Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).
And while the MGCLS has provided vital information to further our understanding of the universe it's also "unveiled a whole new set of mysteries to conquer, which is thrilling," said Knowles.
One image produced by the MeerKAT telescope includes two giant radio galaxies – more than one million light-years from end to end, where one light year is equal to 9.5 trillion kilometres – and the complex interactions of the emissions between them.
Another reveals a powerful merger taking place between two or more massive groups of gas and galaxies.
"Most of the galaxies that live in clusters are no longer forming stars, but how long it takes to shut off star formation for galaxies that fall into clusters, and how it happens, is still an open question," said Kabelo Kesebonye, a UKZN PhD student who contributed to the study by checking the accuracy of the MeerKAT source positions against optical galaxy catalogues.
(Compiled by Luke Daniel)
Get the best of our site emailed to you every weekday.
Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.