Astronomers discover 49 new gas-rich galaxies within three hours

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New Delhi: Astronomers looking for star-forming gas within a single radio galaxy did not discover any. Instead, within a short span of three hours, they identified 49 galaxies entirely new to science, that were all rich in star-forming gas. Many of these galaxies are close to each other, forming galaxy groups, with several identified over the course of a single observation. The galaxies were discovered using the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa.

Astronomers find 49 galaxies in under three hours from ICRAR on Vimeo.

Three of the newly discovered galaxies are directly connected by gas. The central galaxy is undergoing a burst of star formation. The researchers believe that this central galaxy is stealing the star-forming material from its two companions. The siphoning of the gas can accelerate the ageing of the other two galaxies, slowing down the process of star formation, and potentially making them dormant. The methods used to discover the new galaxies can benefit future surveys and campaigns.

A paper describing the findings has been published in the Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society. Lead author of the research, Marcin Glowacki says, “I did not expect to find almost fifty new galaxies in such a short time. By implementing different techniques for finding galaxies, which are used for other MeerKAT surveys, we were able to detect all of these galaxies and reveal their gas content.” The researchers have since discovered additional gas-rich galaxies, which will be shared with the scientific community soon.

What are radio galaxies?

The international team of astronomers were originally looking to study dust within a single radio galaxy. Radio galaxies are particularly bright in radio frequencies, and extend for millions of lightyears beyond their optically visible boundaries. Radio galaxies typically contain active galactic nuclei, which are bright black holes that are voraciously feeding on the surrounding gas and dust. These bright cores develop because of the extreme friction in the material falling into the supermassive black hole.

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