A new telescope shows the center of the Milky Way in dazzling, fiery detail

MeerKAT is producing brilliant images of the super massive black hole that is at our galaxy’s center.

MeerKAT image: 1,000 x 500 light-year area of the center of the Milky Way
MeerKAT image: 1,000 x 500 light-year area of the center of the Milky Way

There is a new radio telescope up and running based in Karoo, South Africa. The MeerKAT (Karoo Array Telescope), as it’s named, operated by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, is already producing brilliant images of the super massive black hole that is at our galaxy’s center, 25,000 light years away.

That center is obscured from view when using traditional methods of observation; it’s behind the constellation Sagittarius, where clouds of gas and dust hide it from view. However, MeerKAT's radio wavelengths penetrate the obscuring dust and open a window into this distinctive region and its black hole.  



Taken by MeerKAT, this shot shows a 1,000 x 500 light-year area of the center of the Milky Way. The brighter the spot, the more intense the radio signal. Image by Square Kilometer Array, South Africa.

The “filaments” that you see in the image above are not yet fully understood, after being first discovered in the 1980s, but they only exist near that central black hole. The other objects are remnants of supernovae and star-forming regions, near dead center of the Milky Way.

“We wanted to show the science capabilities of this new instrument,” said Fernando Camilo, chief scientist of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), which built and operates MeerKAT. “The center of the galaxy was an obvious target: unique, visually striking and full of unexplained phenomena—but also notoriously hard to image using radio telescopes.”

"Although it’s early days with MeerKAT, and a lot remains to be optimized, we decided to go for it—and were stunned by the results,” Camilo continued.


All 64 dishes of the MeerKAT radio telescope array, up and running in South Africa. Astronomers "celebrated" completion by taking a snapshot of the center of the Milky Way. Image by Square Kilometer Array Africa.

This is not the first image by MeerKAT; it captured an image two years ago of an area that scientists previously thought only held about 70 galaxies; MeerKAT captured over 1,300.


MeerKAT "First Light" image by Square Kilometer Array, South Africa.

Live on Monday: Does the US need one billion people?

What would happen if you tripled the US population? Matthew Yglesias and moderator Charles Duhigg explore the idea on Big Think Live.

Big Think LIVE

Is immigration key to bolstering the American economy? Could having one billion Americans secure the US's position as the global superpower?

Keep reading Show less

Mystery anomaly weakens Earth's magnetic field, report scientists

A strange weakness in the Earth's protective magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.

Satellite data shows a new, eastern center emerging in the South Atlantic Anomaly.

ESA
Surprising Science
  • "The South Atlantic Anomaly" in the Earth's magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.
  • The information was gathered by the ESA's Swarm Constellation mission satellites.
  • The changes may indicate the coming reversal of the North and South Poles.
Keep reading Show less

Mars pole may be hiding salty lakes and life, find researchers

Researchers detect a large lake and several ponds deep under the ice of the Martian South Pole.

Mars.

Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Italian scientists release findings of a large underground lake and three ponds below the South Pole of Mars.
  • The lake might contain water, with salt preventing them from freezing.
  • The presence of water may indicate the existence of microbial and other life forms on the planet.
Keep reading Show less

In praise of nudity: The nudist beaches of Central and Eastern Europe

"Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…"

Photo by Jessica D. Vega on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
They lie on towels, blankets and mattresses, without wind screens, but under umbrellas.
Keep reading Show less
Mind & Brain

Crows are self-aware just like us, says new study

Crows have their own version of the human cerebral cortex.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast