Astronomers create new radio map of the Large Magellanic Cloud


Astronomers using CSIRO Square Mile Australian Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope observed the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy in the Milky Way located about 160,000 light-years away, at 888 MHz as part of the Evolutionary map of the universe (EMU) investigation.

This image, captured by CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope, shows the Large Magellanic Cloud. Image credit: Pennock et al., doi: 10.1093 / mnras / stab1858.

“It is gratifying to see these exciting results from the first observations of EMU,” said Andrew Hopkins, head of the EMU survey, astronomer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Macquarie University.

“EMU is an incredibly ambitious project with scientific goals that range from understanding the evolution of stars and galaxies to cosmological measurements of dark matter and dark energy, and much more.”

“The findings from this early work demonstrate the power of the ASKAP telescope to deliver sensitive images over large areas of the sky, offering a tantalizing glimpse of what the full EMU investigation can reveal.”

“This survey has been essential in enabling us to design the main survey, which we hope will begin in early 2022.”

Using the ASKAP telescope, Professor Hopkins and his colleagues captured the sharpest radio images of the Large Magellanic Cloud ever recorded.

They also studied the stars themselves that form the structure of this dwarf galaxy, including the Tarantula Nebula, the most active star-forming region in the Local Group.

In addition, they analyzed radio broadcasts from background galaxies as well as the foreground stars of our own Milky Way.

“The new crisp, sensitive image reveals thousands of radio sources we’ve never seen before,” said Dr Clara Pennock, astronomer from Lennard-Jones Laboratories at Keele University.

“Most of them are actually galaxies millions or even billions of light years beyond the Large Magellanic Cloud.”

“We usually see them because of the supermassive black holes in their centers which can be detected at all wavelengths, especially radio.”

“But we are now also starting to find many galaxies in which stars are forming at a tremendous rate.”

“Combining this data with previous observations from X-ray, optical and infrared telescopes will allow us to explore these galaxies in extraordinary detail.”

“With so many stars and nebulae gathered together, the increased sharpness of the image was instrumental in the discovery of radio-emitting stars and compact nebulae in the Large Magellanic Cloud,” said Dr Jacco van Loon, also from Lennard-Jones Laboratories in Keele. University.

“We see all kinds of radio sources, from individual nascent stars to planetary nebulae that result from the death of stars like the Sun.”

The results appear in the Monthly notices from the Royal Astronomical Society.


Clara M. Pennock et al. 2021. The ASKAP-EMU early scientific project: survey of the 888 MHz radio continuum of the Large Magellanic Cloud. MNRAS 506 (3): 3540-3559; doi: 10.1093 / mnras / stab1858

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