LADUMA J033046.20-275518.1 is the most distant megamaser of its kind ever detected.
LADUMA J033046.20-275518.1 lies at a distance of about 5 billion light-years from Earth.
Nicknamed Nkalakatha, this megamaser was discovered by the MeerKAT telescope as part of the Looking At the Distant Universe with the MeerKAT Array (LADUMA) deep HI survey.
“Megamasers are usually created when two galaxies violently collide in the Universe,” said Dr. Marcin Glowacki, an astronomer at the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy, the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of the Western Cape, and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) at Curtin University.
“When galaxies collide, the gas they contain becomes extremely dense and can trigger concentrated beams of light to shoot out.”
“This is the first hydroxyl megamaser of its kind to be observed by the MeerKAT telescope and the most distant seen by any telescope to date.”
“The megamaser was detected on the first night of a survey involving more than 3000 hours of observations by MeerKAT,” he added.
“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.”
Dr. Glowacki and colleagues are using MeerKAT to observe narrow regions of the sky extremely deeply and will measure atomic hydrogen in galaxies from the distant past to now.
The combination of studying hydroxyl masers and hydrogen will help astronomers better understand how the Universe has evolved over time.
“We have follow-up observations of the megamaser planned and hope to make many more discoveries,” Dr. Glowacki said.
The team’s paper will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Marcin Glowacki et al. 2022. LADUMA: Discovery of a luminous OH megamaser at z>0.5. ApJL, in press; arXiv: 2204.02523
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