Discovery of two giant radio galaxies offers fresh insights into ...

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Discovery of two giant radio galaxies offers fresh insights into universe

SA telescope installation is helping gain a clearer understanding of the evolutionary pathways of galaxies

Jacinta Delhaize

Two giant radio galaxies have been discovered with SA’s powerful MeerKAT telescope, located in the Karoo. Radio galaxies get their name because they release huge beams, or jets, of radio light. These happen through the interaction between charged particles and strong magnetic fields related to supermassive black holes at the galaxies’ hearts.

These giant galaxies are much bigger than most others in the universe and are thought to be rare. Though millions of radio galaxies are known to exist, only about 800 giants have been found. This population of galaxies was previously hidden from us by radio telescopes’ limitations. But the MeerKAT has allowed new discoveries because it can detect faint, diffuse light which previous telescopes were unable to do.

The discovery, published in the monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, gives astronomers further clues about how galaxies have changed and evolved throughout cosmic history. It’s also a way to understand how galaxies may continue to change and evolve — and to work out how old radio galaxies can get...

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