South Africa's powerful MeerKAT telescope was launched in July 2018 in the Karoo region, an arid area in the southwest of South Africa composed of 64 radio dishes. It is a radio telescope with a specialized antenna to receive radio waves from astronomical sources in space.
MeerKAT telescope is managed by a facility of the National Research Foundation, called the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO).
Recently, the MeerKAT telescope discovered two new radio galaxies. The University of Cape Town (UCT) said that these radio galaxies are one of the largest single objects in the universe, which is thought by scientists to be rare.
These galaxies are named radio galaxies because they emit huge beams or jets of radio light due to the interaction between particles and strong magnetic fields that are related to the black holes that are located at the center of the galaxies.
They published their findings in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Two Giant Radio Galaxies Found
The researchers wrote in The Conversation that the radio galaxies they found are bigger than most of the other galaxies in the universe.
Although there are millions of radio galaxies that are known to exist, there are only about 800 giants that have been found which makes them rare. But with using the MeerKat, the researchers were able to detect faint, diffuse light that previous telescopes cannot detect.
Their study showed how galaxies have evolved throughout cosmic history and give insights into how galaxies may continue to change and evolve and how old they could get.
The MeerKAT telescope detected the two giant radio galaxies in the new radio maps of the sky created by one of the most advanced surveys of distant galaxies. The team working on it called this the MeerKAT International Gigahertz Tiered Extragalactic Exploration (MIGHTEE) survey, which included experts from around the world that used the impressive data from the MeerKAT telescope.
The two giant galaxies are 3.8 billion light-years away. The researchers said that they were able to spot the giant radio galaxies because of the discovery of enormous jets and lobes in the MIGHTEE map.
There Are More Giant Galaxies In the Universe Than Once Thought
Their discovery is a piece of evidence that there could be more giant galaxies in the universe, which could help scientists discover what supermassive black holes can do to their galaxies, IOL reported.
"We found these giant radio galaxies in a region of sky which is only about four times the area of the full moon. Based on our current knowledge of the density of giant radio galaxies in the sky, the probability of finding two of them in this region is extremely small.," said lead author Dr. Jacinta Delhaize.
"This means that giant radio galaxies are probably far more common than we thought," Delhaize said.
This idea was supported by co-author Dr. Matthew Prescott, a research fellow at the University of Western Cape. He said that the two giant radio galaxies are special because they are much bigger than the other radio galaxies found in the past.
Based on their previous knowledge on how galaxies should change and evolve, the researchers said that the two new galaxies is a sign that there are more of them in the universe that exists.
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