This massive laser is at a distance of 5 billion light-years from Earth.
Space laser light travels 36 billion billion miles (58 trillion kilometers) and reaches our planet.
A team of international astronomers led by Marcin Klovaki observed the light using the Mirgate telescope of the South African Radio Astronomical Observatory. (MeerKAT stands for Karoo Array Telescope, prefixed with the African word for “more”)
Klovaki is a research partner at the Curtin University Center for International Radio Astronomical Research in Australia.
Megamasers are formed when two galaxies collide with each other. Clovicki said it was the first hydroxyl megamaser Meerkat noticed.
Hydroxl, a chemical group consisting of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom, can be found in galaxies.
“When galaxies collide, the gas in them is very dense and can emit focused light beams,” Kloviki said in a statement.
The research team named the laser Nkalakatha, which means “great leader” in isiZulu, the Zulu language of Zulus in South Africa.
Astronomers discovered megamasers on the first night of a survey that observed more than 3,000 hours using MeerKAT.
“In just one night’s observation, it’s interesting that we actually found a record-breaking megameter,” Clovaki said. “It shows how good the telescope is.”
The research team continues to use MeerKAT to closely monitor narrow areas of the sky and search for the same objects that have been spied on by Megamasers. In doing so it can provide additional insights into how the universe came into being.
“We have planned follow-up observations of megamars and hope to make more and more discoveries,” Clovacki said.
The MeerKAT Telescope, located in the Karu region of South Africa, has a range of 64 radio feeds and has been in operation since July 2018. The powerful telescope is sensitive to dim radio light.
Mirgate is the forerunner of the Intercontinental Square kilometer array or telescope being built in both SKA, South Africa and Australia.
Thousands of feeds and a million low-frequency antennas will be on the line in an effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope.
Although these foods and antennas are located in different parts of the world, they together form a telescope covering an area of one square kilometer (0.39 square miles). As a result, astronomers can scan the entire sky much faster than other telescopes.
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