MeerKAT paints a fascinating portrait of the Milky Way – Astronomy Now

MeerKAT radio view of the central regions of the Milky Way, highlighted by bright red emissions surrounding the galaxy’s central black hole. Image: I. Heywood, SARAO.

Have you ever wondered what you could see if your eyes were sensitive to radio waves instead of visible light? Then see the latest images from the 64-antenna MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa, revealing the heart of the Milky Way as seen in radio broadcasts.

The stunning images show previously known and recently discovered features, including supernova remnants, huge magnetized radio filaments and the blazing inferno surrounding the 4 million solar mass black hole at the heart of the galaxy.

The imagery is based on detailed analysis of a survey performed during the commissioning of the telescope, resulting in a mosaic of 20 observations captured over 200 hours of telescope time. The result is a 100 megapixel mosaic with a resolution of 4 arc seconds.

Sagittarius A*, the 4 million solar mass black hole at the heart of the Milky Way appears as a blaze of surrounding radio emissions, as well as huge magnetized radio filaments in cirrus-like arcs. Image: I. Heywood, SARAO.

Images reveal never-before-seen supernova remnants, including a rare, nearly perfectly spherical example, as well as numerous stellar nurseries, cirrus-like emissions made up of numerous parallel radio filaments, and a fascinating sight of ‘the Mouse’, a runaway pulsar . possibly ejected in a supernova explosion.

At the heart of the mosaic is the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way, shining like a giant red eye embedded in a vast cloud of less powerful emissions.

A runaway pulsar known as the “mouse” is seen at left, possibly ejected from supernova G359.1-0.5, the remnant in the center of this image. At the top right is one of the longest and most famous radio filaments, known as the “snake”. Image: I. Heywood, SARAO.

“I spent a lot of time looking at this (mosaic) working on it, and I never get tired of it,” says Ian Heywood of the University of Oxford, Rhodes University and South African Radio Astronomy Observatory. . He is the lead author of a study in The Journal of Astrophysics.

“When I show this image to people who might be new to radio astronomy, or unfamiliar with it, I always try to emphasize that radio imaging wasn’t always like this, and what a leap forward MeerKAT really is. in terms of its capabilities,” he said. “It has been a real privilege to work over the years with colleagues at SARAO who have built this fantastic telescope.”

Isabella Rammala, a Rhodes/SARAO doctoral student, participated in the imaging and data processing.

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