Telescopes Team Up To Study Giant Galaxy

Presenting new radio and optical images of the nearest radio galaxy Centaurus A.

Telescopes Team Up To Study Giant Galaxy
The giant radio galaxy Centaurus A as observed by the Murchison Widefield Array telescope. Credit ICRAR/Curtin.

Astronomers have used two Australian radio telescopes and several optical telescopes to study the complex components that are fuelling planes of material shooting far from a dark galaxy 55 million times more enormous than the Sun. Through these telescopes, a nearby radio galaxy known as Centaurus A.

Dr. Ben McKinley from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) said, “As the closest radio galaxy to Earth, Centaurus A is the perfect ‘cosmic laboratory’ to study the physical processes responsible for moving material and energy away from the galaxy’s core.”

Telescopes Team Up To Study Giant Galaxy
A ‘radio colour’ view of the sky above a ‘tile’ of the Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope, located in outback Western Australia. The Milky Way is visible as a band across the sky and the dots beyond are some of the 300,000 galaxies observed by the telescope for the GLEAM survey. The Centaurus A radio galaxy is visible to the right of the image. Red indicates the lowest frequencies, green the middle frequencies and blues the highest frequencies. Credit: Radio image by Natasha Hurley-Walker (ICRAR/Curtin) and the GLEAM Team. MWA tile and landscape by Dr. John Goldsmith / Celestial Visions.

Centaurus A is 12 million away from the Earth- right not far off in galactic terms—and is a famous focus for beginner and expert cosmologists in the Southern Hemisphere because of its size, exquisite tidy paths, and noticeable crest of material.

Dr. McKinley said, “Being so close to Earth and so big actually makes studying this galaxy a real challenge because most of the telescopes capable of resolving the detail we need for this type of work have fields of view that are smaller than the area of sky Centaurus A takes up.”

“We used the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and Parkes—these radio telescopes both have large fields of view, allowing them to image a large portion of the sky and see all of Centaurus A at once. The MWA also has superb sensitivity allowing the large-scale structure of Centaurus A to be imaged in great detail.”

The MWA is a low recurrence radio telescope situated at the Murchison Radio-cosmology Observatory in Western Australia’s Mid West, worked by Curtin University for the benefit of a global consortium. The Parkes Observatory is 64-meter radio telescope regularly known as “the Dish” situated in New South Wales and worked by CSIRO.

Telescopes Team Up To Study Giant Galaxy
Centaurus A observed at 2307 MHz by the the Parkes radio telescope. Credit: ICRAR/Curtin.

Co-author Professor Steven Tingay from Curtin University and ICRAR said, “If we can figure out what’s going in Centaurus A, we can apply this knowledge to our theories and simulations for how galaxies evolve throughout the entire Universe.”

“As well as the plasma that’s fuelling the large plumes of material the galaxy is famous for, we found evidence of a galactic wind that’s never been seen—this is basically a high speed stream of particles moving away from the galaxy’s core, taking energy and material with it as it impacts the surrounding environment.”

Telescopes Team Up To Study Giant Galaxy
Centaurus A observed at 154 MHz by the Murchison Widefield Array. Credit: ICRAR/Curtin.

By contrasting the radio and optical perceptions of the world the group additionally discovered proof that stars having a place with Centaurus An existed farther than beforehand thought and were potentially being influenced by the breezes and streams radiating from the system.