This massive laser is at a distance of 5 billion light years from Earth.
Space laser light travels 36 billion billion miles (58 trillion kilometers) and reaches our planet.
A team of international astronomers led by Marcin Klovaki observed the light using the South African Radio Astronomical Observatory’s Mirgate telescope. (MeerKAT stands for Karoo Array Telescope, prefixed with the African word for “more”)
Klovaki is a research partner at the Curtin University Center for International Radio Astronomical Research in Australia.
Megamasers form when two galaxies collide. Clovicki said it was the first hydroxyl megamaseur Meerkat noticed.
Hydroxl, a chemical group consisting of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom, can be found in galaxies.
“When galaxies collide, the gas they contain is very dense and can emit focused light beams,” Kloviki said in a statement.
The research team named the laser Nkalakatha, which means “great chief” in isiZulu, the Zulu language of the South African Zulus.
Astronomers discovered megamasers on the first night of a survey that observed over 3,000 hours using MeerKAT.
“In just one night of observation, it’s interesting that we found a record megameter,” Clovaki said. “It shows how good the telescope is.”
The search team continues to use MeerKAT to closely monitor narrow areas of the sky and search for the same objects that have been spied by Megamasers. By doing so, it can provide additional information about how the universe came to be.
“We have planned follow-up observations of megamars and hope to make more and more discoveries,” Clovacki said.
The MeerKAT telescope, located in the Karu region of South Africa, has a range of 64 radio streams and has been operational since July 2018. The powerful telescope is sensitive to weak radio light.
Mirgate is the precursor to the intercontinental square kilometer array or telescope being built at SKA, South Africa and Australia.
Thousands of streams and a million low-frequency antennas will be online in an effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope.
Although these feeds and antennae are located in different parts of the world, together they form a telescope covering an area of one square kilometer (0.39 square miles). As a result, astronomers can scan the entire sky much faster than other telescopes.