Thuringian explorers in search of new stars

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Thuringian explorers in search of new stars

Updated: 03/01/2022, 04:55 | Reading time: 2 minutes

The Keith galaxy NGC 4631 at three different wavelengths: star formation in the galaxy produces hot gas visible in X-rays (blue) and high-energy particles visible in radio wavelengths (orange). The visible light image of the galaxy is superimposed in the center.

The Keith galaxy NGC 4631 at three different wavelengths: star formation in the galaxy produces hot gas visible in X-rays (blue) and high-energy particles visible in radio wavelengths (orange). The visible light image of the galaxy is superimposed in the center.

Photo: Volker Heesen/Michael Stein/Hamburger Observatory

Tautenburg. The Thuringian State Observatory in Tautenburg is currently working on a new sky map with 4.4 million galaxies.

Seven billion years – that’s how far the view of the universe goes on a new sky map published by researchers. The data comes from the world’s largest radio telescope Lofar. They are recorded by network measuring stations in Poland, Ireland, France, Sweden, Latvia, etc., as well as at the Thuringian State Observatory in Tautenburg (TLS). Lofar’s 96 antennas at the observatory ten kilometers northeast of Jena have been searching the sky for information about the formation and development of galaxies for four years. Estimates of the recorded radio waves are continuously combined with those of all stations involved in the Juwels high performance computer in J├╝lich, which is currently the fastest supercomputer in Europe, via a 10 gigabit data link. Mastermind rendered the most complex celestial image to date under the guidance of the Thuringians.

TLS astronomer Matthias Hooft describes the result as superimposing different time slices onto a single image. You can see galaxies in the northern sky, that is, in the sky above the earth’s hemisphere north of the equator. The age of the oldest of these galaxies reaches seven billion years. Massive black holes or regions of very strong star formation could be observed in galaxies. Thus, 4.4 million galaxies became visible in the radio range. A million of these galaxies were previously completely unknown, as were many discoveries and objects invisible to the human eye. “If the data were only evaluated from one station, the result would be quite disappointing. The Lofar connectivity gives us high resolution and thus a breathtaking look at the history of the universe,” said Hooft. Overall, the research teams evaluated records for 3,500 hours of observation—a volume of data that would fill 20,000 laptop hard drives.

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So far, 27 percent of the recorded data has been mapped. According to Hooft, the sky painting could be completed in a few years. The wealth of information has already been demonstrated by recent scientific work. The sky map is the most comprehensive study of colliding clusters of galaxies, the largest structures in the universe containing hundreds to thousands of galaxies. In addition, so-called “jellyfish galaxies” have been observed losing dust and gas as they travel through the intergalactic medium.

lofar-surveys.org

www.tls-tautenburg.de

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