New radio sky survey reveals 300,000 new galaxies

Feb. 19 (UPI) — An international team of astronomers have produced a new map of the distant universe revealing some 300,000 new galaxies. The map was plotted using data collected during the first phase of a new radio sky survey.

The Low Frequency Array telescope, located in the Netherlands, scanned a quarter of the northern hemisphere at low radio frequencies. The new map represents 10 percent of the observation made during the initial phase of the survey.

The LOFAR telescope can observe radio waves traveling from billions of miles away. Low frequency emissions can reveal inflating gas surrounding supermassive black holes.

“LOFAR has a remarkable sensitivity and that allows us to see that these jets are present in all of the most massive galaxies, which means that their black holes never stop eating,” Philip Best, University of Edinburgh researcher, said in a news release.

Galactic mergers can also produce high-energy radio emissions, strong enough to be propelled billion of light-years across the universe.

“With radio observations we can detect radiation from the tenuous medium that exists between galaxies,” said Amanda Wilber, researcher at the University of Hamburg. “This radiation is generated by energetic shocks and turbulence. LOFAR allows us to detect many more of these sources and understand what is powering them.”

The latest LOFAR observations showed galaxies that aren’t merging can also produce particle acceleration similar to those triggered by galaxy mergers.

“This discovery tells us that, besides merger events, there are other phenomena that can trigger particle acceleration over huge scales,” said Annalisa Bonafede, professor of astrophysicist at the University of Bologna.

The newly published maps and related data represent a portion of the first phase of the radio sky survey, the LOFAR observations involved massive amounts of data — 10 million DVDs worth.

Organizing the data and translating LOFAR’s observations into maps required significant amounts of time and computer power. The data inspired 26 new scientific papers published this week in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

“This sky map will be a wonderful scientific legacy for the future,” said Carole Jackson, general director of ASTRON, which manages LOFAR. “It is a testimony to the designers of LOFAR that this telescope performs so well.”


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