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First view of the heart of our Milky Way galaxy with clarity and detail

The heart of our Milky Way Galaxy shows exploding stars, stellar nurseries, mysterious ‘radio filaments’ or strands, and a chaotic region around supermassive black hole

The heart of our milky way galaxy
The new MeerKAT image of the Galactic center region is shown with the Galactic plane running horizontally across the image. Many new and previously-known radio features are evident, including supernova remnants, compact star-forming regions, and the large population of mysterious radio filaments. The broad feature running vertically through the image is the inner part of the (previously discovered) radio bubbles, spanning 1400 light-years across the center of the Galaxy. Colors indicate bright radio emission, while fainter emission is shown in greyscale. Credit: I. Heywood, SARAO.

The heart of our Milky Way Galaxy shows exploding stars, stellar nurseries, mysterious ‘radio filaments’ or strands, and a chaotic region around the 4 million solar mass supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*, 25,000 light-years from Earth.

This image of the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy depicts the region’s radio emission in unparalleled detail was taken by Radio waves penetrating the intervening dust that obscures the view of this region. It was released by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO).

The image is the result of three years of processing data, and 200 hours of telescope work, to able the researchers to produce a mosaic of twenty distinct observations of various regions of the heart of our Milky Way galaxy.

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SPACE 1000 mysterious-strands-1
An unprecedented new image of the Milky Way galaxy’s turbulent center has revealed nearly 1,000 mysterious strands, inexplicably dangling in space. Astronomers have described some of the strands as being “like the strings on a harp.” That is, they appear in pairs and clusters, side by side with equal spacing between them. Here’s a close-up view of the harp-like structures. Image via Northwestern /SARAO/ Oxford.

Magnetic filaments or strands of radio transmitters with a length of up to 150 light-years penetrate the image. Since their discovery more than 35 years ago, these extraordinary structures have eluded a definitive explanation for their genesis. MeerKAT discovered far more filaments than previously known, and these new data will enable astronomers to conduct detailed studies of these phenomena.

“MeerKAT is making some truly astounding discoveries in one of radio astronomy’s most heavily studied fields. The image we present is brimming with scientific promise, and we anticipate additional surprises when the astronomical community examines the data in the next years,” stated Fernando Camilo, SARAO’s Chief Scientist.

 The heart of our Milky way galaxy
This MeerKAT image shows the complex emission from the galactic center super bubble, which is is traversed by many parallel radio filaments. The bright dot near the center of this region is the black hole Sagittarius A*. (Image credit: Ian Heywood/SARAO)

“The radio pictures they haven’t always been like this and MeerKAT is a breakthrough” for the study of the universe, according to Dr. Ian Heywood, from the University of Oxford (U.K), one of the researchers.

The South African Radio Astronomical Observatory has made available all of MeerKAT’s photos and tens of terabytes of data for the scientific community to analyse and contribute to further discoveries.

The heart of our Milky way galaxy
In the centre of the image is the supernova remnant G359.1-0.5. To the left is ‘the Mouse’, a runaway pulsar possibly formed and ejected by the supernova event. To the upper right is one of the longest and most famous radio filaments, known as ‘the Snake’. Credit: I. Heywood, SARAO.



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