4.4 million galaxies revealed by new space map

new space map
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A new space map has revealed an astonishingly detailed radio image of more than 4.4 million objects and a very dynamic picture of our Universe

Having been made public for the first time, the new space map of nearly a quarter of the norther sky presents about a million objects that have never been seen before with any telescope before.

Collaborating with a team of international scientists, a Durham University astronomer has mapped more than a quarter of the northern sky using the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR), a pan-European radio telescope.

Finding rare objects

To produce this new space map, scientists deployed state-of-the-art data processing algorithms on high-performance computers all over Europe in order to process 3,500 hours of observations that occupy 8 petabytes of disk space – the equivalent of around 20,000 laptops.

This data release, which is by far the largest from the LOFAR Two-metre Sky Survey, presents about a million objects that have never been seen before with any telescope and almost four million objects that are new discoveries at radio wavelengths.

A large proportion of these objects caught on camera are billions of light-years away and are either galaxies that harbour massive black holes or are rapidly growing new stars. Rarer objects that have been discovered include colliding groups of distant galaxies and flaring stars within the Milky Way.

The future of space knowledge and research

Astronomer Timothy Shimwell of ASTRON and Leiden University, said: “This project is so exciting to work on. Each time we create a map our screens are filled with new discoveries and objects that have never before been seen by human eyes.”

“Exploring the unfamiliar phenomena that glow in the energetic radio Universe is such an incredible experience and our team is thrilled to be able to release these maps publicly. This release is only 27% of the entire survey and we anticipate it will lead to many more scientific breakthroughs in the future, including examining how the largest structures in the Universe grow, how black holes form and evolve, the physics governing the formation of stars in distant galaxies and even detailing the most spectacular phases in the life of stars in our own Galaxy.”

“We’ve opened the door to new discoveries with this project, and future work will follow up these new discoveries in even more detail with techniques, which we work on here at Durham as part of the LOFAR-UK collaboration, to post-process the data with 20 times better resolution,” said Durham University scientist, Dr Leah Morabit.

This new space map contained a new revolutionary collection of data and is a major step forward in exploration and astrophysics. This data has the potential to be used to search for a wide range of signals such as those from nearby planets or galaxies right through to faint signatures in the distant Universe.

The information that will be produced by this new space map along with the research potential of the new James Webb telescope is showing a bright future for space exploration and understanding.


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