Astronomers make most detailed map yet of 'blue whale' of space

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Sydney, July 14 (ANI): A team of astronomers has made the most detailed map yet of a rare radio galaxy, which is like the 'blue whale' of space.

According to a report by ABC News, the map of Centaurus A, a galaxy in the Centaurus constellation, covers a segment of sky 200 times the area of the full moon.

The map was released by a team led by Dr Ilana Feain from CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility at a meeting dedicated to the galaxy.

"Only a small percentage of galaxies are of this kind. They're like the blue whales of space - huge and rare," said Feain.

It took 1200 hours of observing time and 406 images, taken by the Australia Telescope Compact Array and Parkes radio telescopes, to create the detailed map.

It took an additional 10,000 hours of computer time to process the image.

Centaurus A is 14 million light years away, extremely close for radio galaxies, which are typically found in the early universe, billions of light years distant.

No one had attempted to map the galaxy to this degree of detail because of its huge size and close proximity.

Team member Tim Cornwell said that it was a "real achievement in radio astronomy."

"It will have a big impact in terms of our understanding of what these objects look like and what the physical conditions are like in the galaxy," he said.

The new image reveals the structure of the galaxy lit up by jets of radio-emitting particles blasted from a central supermassive black hole.

There are two distinct 'lobes' created as the jets energise material in the galaxy, and Cornwell said that the map has revealed some unexpected differences between each lobe.

"The north lobe is very smooth compared to the south lobe. Both are generated from the same object in the same way and are presumably the same age, so it's a bit of a mystery why the two lobes look quite so different," he said.

According to Professor Ken Freeman from the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra, the mosaic image gives a "global perspective" on the galaxy.

"Although much of the structure of this radio galaxy was known already, we now see some terrific detail, and it's a beautiful image," he said. (ANI)

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