scorecardGalactic gold rush: Astronomers discover 49 new galaxies in less than 3 hours!
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Galactic gold rush: Astronomers discover 49 new galaxies in less than 3 hours!

Galactic gold rush: Astronomers discover 49 new galaxies in less than 3 hours!
LifeScience2 min read
Who would have thought that three hours could yield remarkable discoveries? A mere blink of an eye, barely enough time to prepare a three-course meal or finish binge-watching a web series. Yet, in the vast expanse of the cosmos, it proved ample for astronomers to uncover a treasure trove of not one, not two, but 49 new gas-rich galaxies!

Led by Dr. Marcin Glowacki from the Curtin University node of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Western Australia, this research initially focused on studying the star-forming gas in a single radio galaxy. However, the team's efforts took an unexpected turn when they stumbled upon a wealth of other galaxies while analysing the data.

Surpassing all expectations, the observations — made using the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa — lasted less than three hours, yet led to the detection of gas in 49 previously unknown galaxies.

Speaking of this discovery, Dr. Glowacki said: “I did not expect to find almost 50 new galaxies in such a short time. By implementing different techniques for finding galaxies, which are used for other MeerKAT surveys, we were able to detect all of these galaxies and reveal their gas content.”

Dubbed the ‘49ers’ in homage to the California gold rush miners of 1849, these newfound galaxies have been likened to precious nuggets scattered across our night sky. Many of them have clustered together to form galaxy groups, with some intricately interconnected by their gas content.

Among these galaxies, three stand out for their intriguing dynamics. The central galaxy, ablaze with star formation, appears to be siphoning gas from its companion galaxies and potentially rendering them inactive. This symbiotic relationship underscores the intricate dance of cosmic forces shaping our universe.

The discovery underscores the MeerKAT telescope's prowess as a formidable imaging instrument that excels at hunting for star-forming gas in galaxies. And now, the methods used to study the ‘49ers’ are poised to enrich future MeerKAT surveys and observational endeavours, promising further revelations in the vast expanse of space.

The research was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and can be accessed here.

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