Tech UPTechnologyThey detect a powerful galactic space laser (a 'megamaser')

They detect a powerful galactic space laser (a 'megamaser')

Astronomers have detected it thanks to the MeerKAT telescope in the North Cape of South Africa: a powerful radio wave ‘laser’, a megamaser, the most remote ever observed, since it has been observed 5 billion light years away.

The most distant megamaser ever detected

This megamaser, which comes in a few days of great distant discoveries, is at least 1,000 times brighter than the Sun and its light has traveled 58,000 billion kilometers. Their finding shows that the emission comes from a compact gas of hydroxyl molecules , which are made up of one hydrogen and one oxygen atom. These molecules, when excited by some energetic process, emit light at a very specific wavelength, creating a signal similar to that of a laser. Which is precisely what these astronomers have detected.

‘Who’/what emits this laser?

It is practically certain that it is not some alien civilization that is pointing a huge laser point at us from the other side of the universe, no. But the alternative is also quite striking, because the megamaser is likely the result of two galaxies colliding violently, astronomers suggest ; a collision of galaxies that took place when the universe was a third of its current age.

“It is impressive that, with just one night of observations, we have already found an unprecedented megamaser. It shows how good the telescope is,” say the authors.

This discovery could test what we already know about the evolution of galaxies and what happens when they merge with one another .

“When galaxies collide, the gas they contain becomes extremely dense and can unleash concentrated beams of light,” said Marcin Glowacki, lead author of the study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

MeerKAT is a precursor instrument to the Square Kilometer Array , a global initiative to build the world’s largest radio telescopes in Western Australia and South Africa.

Referencia: Marcin Glowacki et al, LADUMA: Discovery of a luminous OH megamaser at z>0.5. arXiv:2204.02523v1 [astro-ph.GA], doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2204.02523

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