It took one massive telescope 130 hours to capture tens of thousands of galaxies in a single image
- Astronomers were able to capture tens of thousands of galaxies in a single image using the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa.
- They trained the telescope on an area of around five full moons for around 130 hours.
- The image was able to capture a few galaxies which were never seen before.
- The results also show that star formation during 'cosmic noon' was much faster than previously thought.
AdvertisementIt's hard enough to spot stars in the night sky. The vast and enormous galaxies are more notably elusive to the naked eye. Even with telescopes, it's not always easy to peer billions of light years into space — but it's not impossible.
Now, that astronomers have the MeerKAT telescope and its 64 dishes to monitor the skies, they used it to track a dedicated piece of the sky for 130 hours. They were able to capture every single bright light in the sky — each representing a different galaxy. The brighter the dot, the bigger the supermassive black hole at the core of the
"To make this image, we selected an area in the Southern Sky that contains no strong radio sources whose glare could blind a sensitive observation," said Tom Mauch of SARAO, the leader author of the study published in The Astrophysical Journal. The size of the area was about the same space that five full moons would take up.
Never before seen galaxies
Some of galaxies that showed up in MeerKAT DEEP2 image have never been observed before, according to National Astronomy Observatory (NAO). That's because optical telescopes can peer into distant galaxies, but when it comes to star formations — clouds of dust block their view.
Radio telescopes, on the other hand, can see through the dust and record observations of the 'starburst' galaxies.
The MeerKAT telescope in South Africa was also responsible for spotting two massive bubbles that stretched 700 light years above and below the center of the Milky Way, earlier this year.
New evidence of 'cosmic noon'
The results of the new study may also displace some previously held notions. Around 13 billion years ago, after the big bang, stars started to form in the universe. But things really kicked into gear 2 billion years later. Most stars were born in an era referred to as 'cosmic noon', 8 to 11 billion years ago — a time period when astronomers believe star formation was at its peak.
"Because radio waves travel at the speed of light, this image is a time machine that samples star formation in these distant galaxies over billions of years," explained James Condon, co-author of the paper.
AdvertisementMeerKAT observations show that while it's true that stars were forming rapidly during that time period — they might have been forming much faster than preceding studies have determined.
In addition to breaking through the universe's version of smog, the MeerKAT telescope is also listening for extraterrestrial life. It's project, called 'Breakthrough Listen', is the world's biggest search for aliens.
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