The South African MeerKAT telescope has detected rather interesting phenomena in outer space, specifically five billion light-years from our own home of Earth. The record-breaking discovery comes in the form of a space laser, more specifically a “megamaser,” which is essentially a powerful radio wave that is often made following the collision of two galaxies, according to its discoverer Dr. Marcin Glowacki.
Newly appointed head of the Curtin University node under Western Australia’s International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), Dr. Glowacki relays that the megamaser finding is one of both intrigue and major importance. Leading his international team of astronomers, the scientist explains that the space laser, coined “Nklakatha” (meaning Big Boss in isiZulu), is the first ever telescopically detected megamaser recorded at such a vast distance from Earth.
The space laser is essentially born from the cosmic vapors created in the mega destruction that soon follows after a violent collision between two galactic bodies. From this happenstance, two powerful lines of energy are formed that extend across the universe, releasing light energy in waves throughout its travel. Dr. Glowacki explains:
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“When galaxies collide, the gas they contain becomes extremely dense and can trigger concentrated beams of light to shoot out. This is the first hydroxyl megamaser to be observed by MeerKAT and the most distant seen by any telescope to date. It’s impressive that, with just a single night of observations, we’ve already found a record-breaking megamaser. It shows just how good the telescope is.”
The find was made following over 3,000 hours of observations via the powerful MeerKAT telescope, which was discovered remarkably in the initial night of its survey. The telescope, which is based under the Square Kilometre Array, is utilized mostly to peer into very narrow parts of the cosmos, studying varied effects like atomic hydrogen in far-off galaxies and clusters.
The information wrought from these surveys will aid astronomers for years to come in defining specific concepts surrounding hydrogen and hydroxyl masers, which will in turn, give humans a far better understanding of the natural evolution of the full universe. The University of Colorado’s Prof. Jeremy Darling highlights that the technology is imperative for understanding still-unknown concepts surrounding space and will aid very many future discoveries still to come:
“MeerKAT will probably double the known number of these rare phenomena. Experts thought galaxies merged more often in the past, and the newly discovered OH megamasers will allow us to test this hypothesis.”
Continued observations and surveys are planned for the Looking at the Distant Universe with the Meerkat Array (LADUMA) team. With the aid of complex research data facilities, like the Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA), which utilizes cloud computing to assist in difficult scientific algorithms, will only expand upon our knowledge of the vastness behind the cosmos.
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