South Africa’s newly inaugurated 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope, a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array, has imaged the heart of the Milky Way in unprecedented element, revealing lengthy, magnetised filaments and the blazing core the place a supermassive black gap lurks unseen at optical wavelengths.
“We wanted to show the science capabilities of this new instrument,” mentioned Fernando Camilo, chief scientist on the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory. “The centre of the galaxy was an obvious target: unique, visually striking and full of unexplained phenomena, but also notoriously hard to image using radio telescopes. Although it’s early days with MeerKAT, and a lot remains to be optimised, we decided to go for it – and were stunned by the results.”
Built by the SARAO and inaugurated 13 July by Deputy President David Mabuza, MeerKAT’s 64 dishes finally will likely be half of the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio telescope with tons of of distributed dishes in Australia and South Africa. As it stands, MeerKAT’s dishes present 2,000 distinctive antenna pairs, “resulting in high-fidelity images of the radio sky,” the SARAO mentioned in a information launch.
Earth’s Sun orbits the galaxy’s core at a distance of some 25,000 mild years. While intervening gasoline and mud shroud the hidden heart of the galaxy the place a super-massive black gap is understood to reside, radio waves go by to offer a glimpse of its hidden options. MeerKAT’s preliminary observations present a tantalising trace of issues to return.
Of particular curiosity are lengthy magnetised filaments found within the 1980s which can be seen close to the central black gap and nowhere else. Their origin is a thriller.
“The MeerKAT image has such clarity, marvelled Farhad Yusef-Zadeh of Northwestern University in the United States, an expert on the filamentary structures seen near the central black hole. “The image shows so many features never before seen, including compact sources associated with some of the filaments, that it could provide the key to cracking the code and solve this three-decade riddle.”