The most detailed images seen of galaxies


Astronomers recently released the most comprehensive images ever of galaxies beyond our own. These images were created from data collected by the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR). Additionally, these images were made possible because the international nature of the collaboration pushes the boundaries of what we know about galaxies and supermassive black holes.

These most detailed galaxy images ever produced come from years of work by the team, led by Dr Leah Morabito of Durham University.

The LOFAR network captures images at FM radio frequencies. Some regions of the universe appear dark to the human eye. But, the same region glows brightly in radio waves, allowing astronomers to examine regions of star formation or the cores of galaxies themselves.

Thanks to these new images, astronomers were able to see the inner workings of galaxies near and far at a resolution 20 times sharper than typical LOFAR images. Using signals from all European antennas, the team increased the diameter of the “lens” to nearly 2,000 km, which results in a twenty-fold increase in resolution.

Dr Neal Jackson of the University of Manchester noted, “These high-resolution images allow us to zoom in to see what happens when supermassive black holes launch radio jets, which was not previously possible at frequencies near the FM radio band.”

The team’s work forms the basis of nine scientific studies that reveal new information about the internal structure of radio jets in a variety of different galaxies.

LOFAR is a network of more than 70,000 small branches spread over nine European countries. The results come from years of work by the team, led by Dr Leah Morabito of Durham University. The team was supported in the UK by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Journal references:
  1. F. Sweijen et al., LOFAR high resolution international observations of 4C 43.15. Spectral ages and injection indices in a high-z radiogalaxy, Astronomy & Astrophysics (2021). DO I: 10.1051 / 0004-6361 / 202039871
  2. L. Morabito et al., Sub-arc second imaging with the international LOFAR telescope. I. Fundamental calibration strategy and pipeline, Astronomy and astrophysics (2021). DO I: 10.1051 / 0004-6361 / 202140649
  3. NJ Jackson et al., Sub-arc second imaging with the international LOFAR telescope. II. Completion of the LOFAR Long-Baseline Calibrator Survey, Astronomy & Astrophysics (2021). DO I: 10.1051 / 0004-6361 / 202140756 P.
  4. Kukreti et al., Unmasking the history of 3C 293 with LOFAR sub-arcsecond imaging, Astronomy & Astrophysics (2021). DO I: 10.1051 / 0004-6361 / 202140814
  5. R. Timmerman et al., Origin of the ring structures in Hercules A. Sub-arcsecond 144 MHz to 7 GHz observations, Astronomy & Astrophysics (2021). DO I: 10.1051 / 0004-6361 / 202140880
  6. S. Badole et al., High resolution imaging with the international LOFAR telescope: Observations of gravitational lenses MG 0751 + 2716 and CLASS B1600 + 434, Astronomy & Astrophysics (2021). DO I: 10.1051 / 0004-6361 / 202141227


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