In just one night of observation, scientists discovered a new record – the largest megamaser known to date.
A megamaser is an ultra-powerful laser made with microwave light (hence the maser). Megamasers come in several different flavors, but the type that scientists have discovered is the most common, which displays the signal for hydroxyl, a molecule made up of one atom of oxygen and one atom of hydrogen. The team argues that the newly discovered megamaser, one of the brightest packages known to date, marks a galaxy collision.
“When two galaxies such as the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy collide, rays of light are emitted from the collision and can be seen at cosmic distances,” said Jeremy Darling, co-author of the new research and an astrophysicist at the University of Colorado. at statment published by the University of the Western Cape in South Africa that participated in the research. “The OH [hydroxyl] The megamasers behave like flashing lights that say: Here galaxies collide that make new stars and feed supermassive black holes. “
“Megamasers are coming out of an extreme mess,” Hayley Roberts, a co-author on the new research and a graduate student in astrophysics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said in another study. statment.
The discovery comes from the MeerKAT, a group of 64 receptors spread across a patch of South Africa. The array has started a new project that searches for hydrogen signals in remote locations beingTargeting what one researcher has dubbed the “cosmic vuvuzela,” a century spanning so far that it would allow scientists to see the universe as it looked when it was less than 5 billion years old.
(The project is called “Looking At The Far Universe With The MeerKAT Array, or Laduma,” which means “sound of thunder” in the Zulu language and South African football fans shout to celebrate the goals, The project Location The vuvuzela noise maker was especially popular around the 2010 World Cup, which was held in South Africa.)
Project Laduma would require more than 3,000 hours of observation time – but scientists didn’t have to wait nearly that long to make discoveries.
Marcin Glowacki, lead author of the new research and an astronomer at Curtin University in Australia, said in University statement. “It just shows how good the telescope is.”
Scientists named the giant Nkalakatha the “Great Chief” in the Izulu language, one of the official languages of South Africa, at the suggestion of one of the students.
Nacalakatha emerges from a galaxy with a long, radiant tail on one side, according to the statement, and its light is about 5 billion years old.
And Nkalakatha will not be the only megamaser that the research project can add to the cosmic map. “It is possible that Meerkat will double the known number of these rare phenomena,” Darling said. “It was once thought that galaxies merge more than once, and the newly discovered giant megaphones in OH will allow us to test this hypothesis.”
The results are described in paper Published Wednesday (April 6) to preprint site arXiv.org and accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the author’s identities. Email Megan Bartels at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Megan Bartell. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.