(ORDO NEWS) — A pair of merging galaxies creates radiation, the light from which travels billions of light years to us.
A super-powerful space maser was discovered by scientists using the South African MeerKAT radio telescope. The source turned out to be the most distant megamaser known today, it is located at a distance of about five billion light years and was named Nkalakatha (Nkalakatha), which can be translated from the Zulu as “big boss”.
The find is described in a paper accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and now available in the arXiv preprint library .
Some astronomical objects – usually molecular clouds – can be “pumped” with energy and emit it in the form of stimulated radiation.
Some types of lasers work in a similar way, and since these cosmic sources emit radiation in the microwave region of the spectrum, they are called masers . The luminosity of some of them is orders of magnitude higher than the luminosity of the Sun – for example, megamasers are thousands of times brighter.
The find was made by the MeerKAT telescope during the LADUMA survey, which targets molecular clouds of the early and distant universe. The Ncalakatha emission turned out to be quite characteristic, indicating that the source is an interstellar hydroxyl (OH) cloud located in a galaxy that is undergoing a merger with another galaxy.
“When galaxies merge, the gas they contain becomes extremely dense and can emit concentrated beams of radiation,” says one Marcin Glowacki, one of the authors of the find.
The megamaser is located in the galaxy WISEA J033046.26−275518.3, which is brightly visible in the infrared range and demonstrates a long “tail” of radio emission, apparently associated with matter that is pulled from the galaxy by its approaching neighbor.
According to scientists, this is the most distant hydroacid megamaser known to date. This is the first such discovery for MeerKAT, but scientists are confident that it will soon detect other megamasers in deep space.
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