Record breaking Megamaser detected by Meerkat

Record breaking Megamaser detected by Meerkat

A record breaking megamaser, the most distant one ever observed, has been detected by a team of international astronomers at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (Meerkat) in the Karoo.

The megamaser (a space laser light) was detected five billion light years away from earth and is thought to have travelled a whopping 36 thousand billion billion miles (58 thousand billion billion kilometers) to reach our planet.

Marcin Glowacki, a Research Associate at Curtin University in Australia, who observed the light using Meerkat (The Karoo Array Telescope) said: “When galaxies collide, the gas they contain becomes extremely dense and can trigger concentrated beams of light to shoot out,”

He added that this is the first hydroxyl megamaser that MeerKAT has observed, Hydroxl, a chemical group consisting of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom, can be found inside galaxy mergers.

Named Nkalakatha, the isiZulu word for “big boss”, the megamaser wsa detected on the first night of a survey that spanned more than 3,000 hours of observation time.

Glowacki said: “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.”

In South Africa to observe narrow areas in the sky closely and search for the same elements spied in the megamaser, the researchers hope to get more insight into how the universe has evolved.

“We have follow-up observations of the megamaser planned and hope to make many more discoveries,” Glowacki added.

The MeerKAT telescope, located in the remote semi-desert of the Karoo region, uses an array of 64 radio dishes to detect even the faintest radio light.

The telescope is a precursor to the transcontinental Square Kilometre Array, or SKA, a telescope under construction in both South Africa and Australia, that will include thousands of dishes and up to one million low-frequency antennas in an effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope.

Although situated in different parts of the world, together they will create one telescope that has over one square kilometre of collecting area. As a result, astronomers can survey the entire sky much more quickly than with other telescopes.

The detection of the record breaking Megamaser has astronomers and scientists abuzz, with new information that they believe will help to explain how our galaxy was created.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]


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