We are thrilled to promote the new discovery led by Dr Jacinta Delhaize, a Research Fellow at the University of Cape Town, Dr Matthew Prescott, a Research Fellow at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), and Dr Ian Heywood, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford. Together with UWC professors Lerothodi Leeuw, Russ Taylor and Mattia Vaccari, and UWC postdocs Marcin Glowacki and Fanxia An, as well as researchers from other institutions, they identified two giant radio galaxies in the new radio maps of the sky observed by South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope (https://www.sarao.ac.za/gallery/meerkat/), a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) (https://www.skatelescope.org/). The maps are part of the MeerKAT International Gigahertz Tiered Extragalactic Exploration (MIGHTEE) survey (http://idia.ac.za/mightee/).
This discovery was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal. See https://ras.ac.uk/news-and-press/research-highlights/cosmic-beasts-and-where-find-them for more details on the research highlights. Quoting Dr Jacinta Delhaize, the main author of the study: “We found these giant radio galaxies in a region of sky which is only about 4 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 less than 0.0003 per cent.”
“This means that giant radio galaxies are probably far more common than we thought!”
Dr Matthew Prescott added: “These two galaxies are special because they are amongst the largest giants known, and in the top 10 per cent of all giant radio galaxies. They are more than 2 Mega-parsecs across, which is around 6.5 million light years or about 62 times the size of the Milky Way. Yet they are fainter than others of the same size.”
“We suspect that many more galaxies like these should exist, because of the way we think galaxies grow and change over their lifetimes.”
Find here (https://www.uwc.ac.za/news-and-announcements/news/uwc-astronomy-researchers-help-to-discover-rare-giant-radio-galaxies) a UWC interview of Dr Matthew Prescott on the discovery.
This discovery has also made its way to CNN (https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/21/world/giant-radio-galaxies-discovery-scn/index.html).
Congratulations to all for their work!
Image Credit: I. Heywood (Oxford/Rhodes/SARAO)