“The Milky Way With Alien Eyes” –Enormous Radio Survey Reveals Our Dazzling Technicolor Galaxy”

 

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A new view of the Milky Way shows our galaxy bursting with a dazzling array of colors unlike anything we’ve seen before. “This is the first radio survey to image the sky in such amazing technicolor,” said Natasha Hurley-Walker, an astronomer at Curtin University and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).


The survey, called GLEAM (GaLactic and Extragalactic All-sky MWA), has produced a catalogue of 300,000 radio galaxies observed by the MWA telescope.

“The human eye sees by comparing brightness in three different primary colors – red, green and blue,” Hurley-Walker said.

This GLEAM view of the Milky Way reveals a bright red center (indicating the lowest radio frequencies), with the middle and highest frequencies represented by green and blue. (Find out how astronomer discovered that our part of the Milky Way is four times bigger than we thought.)

Each dot elsewhere in the image is another galaxy—to date, the survey has catalogued 300,000 of them. That means some of the radio waves seen here have been traveling through space for billions of years.

“GLEAM does rather better than that, viewing the sky in 20 primary colors. That’s much better than we humans can manage, and it even beats the very best in the animal kingdom, the mantis shrimp, which can see 12 different primary colors.”

“Our team is using GLEAM to find out what happens when clusters of galaxies collide,” Hurley-Walker added. “We’re also able to see the remnants of explosions from the most ancient stars in our galaxy, and find the first and last gasps of supermassive black holes.”

GLEAM is one of the biggest radio surveys of the sky ever assembled.

“The area surveyed is enormous,” said MWA Director Randall Wayth, also from Curtin University and ICRAR. “Large sky surveys like this are extremely valuable to scientists and they’re used across many areas of astrophysics, often in ways the original researchers could never have imagined.”

The results were published online Sept. 16 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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