Astronomers have discovered a powerful space laser emitted from a distant galaxy.
The radio wave beam is what scientists call a megamaser and this is the farthest to date, appearing 5 billion light-years away from Earth.
It was discovered by an international team of scientists using the Meerkat telescope in South Africa, a radio telescope consisting of 64 antennas.
Megawaves are naturally occurring radio wavelength lasers that can help illuminate colliding galaxies.
“Magazers act like flashing lights that say, ‘Here galaxies collide to form new stars and fuel supermassive black holes,” said study co-author Jeremy Darling, from the University of Colorado.
When galaxies merge, the gas they contain becomes very dense, producing a specific radio signal known as a maser.
Megamasts are powerful nursing devices produced in collisions of massive galaxies, like rays of cosmic beacons.
In a paper published last week, Darling and his colleagues report the discovery of the largest giant maser to date.
To reflect its recording status, the team named the space laser Nkalakatha, a word from isiZulu meaning “great leader.”
“The Nkalakatha is one of the most powerful ultrasound locators known in OH, and it’s the largest megamass of its kind ever discovered, so it really is a ‘Big Chief’ university,” said Andrew Baker, co-author of the study.
Hopefully this is the first of many OH [hydroxyl] megamasers to be discovered as the project continues.”
Instead of emitting visible light, the maser emits radio and microwave waves that are amplified by cosmic forces.
Once the team proved they had a Megazer in their hands, they set out to find the galaxy it came from.
They found that the Nacalacatha galaxy is about seven billion light-years away and has a long tail on one side that can be seen in radio waves.
The light was emitted from the massive mass about five billion years ago, when the universe was only two-thirds old.
The main goal of the MeerKAT project is to use gas observations in distant galaxies to help understand how galaxies have evolved over the past nine billion years.
Because these radio signals are weak, the researchers aim to get thousands of hours of observations using MeerKAT to detect them.
The data is shredded by powerful computers to help reveal signs of ancient and distant objects of interest.
“Meerkat may have doubled the known number of these rare phenomena,” Darling said.
“It was thought in the past that galaxies merge quite a lot, and the newly discovered giant megaphones in OH will allow us to test this hypothesis.”
This story originally appeared In the sun Reproduced here with permission.
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