Gas-rich galaxies discovered by Australian astronomers

Dozens of new space galaxies have been discovered in an international effort led by Australian astronomers.

A total of 49 gas-rich galaxies were uncovered in less than three hours by a MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa.

The research aimed to study the star-forming gas in a single galaxy but instead revealed others while inspecting the data.

The group of galaxies, which were found through the discovery of 49 different gases, were nicknamed the “49ers” in reference to the miners of the California gold rush in 1849.

Dr Marcin Glowacki, from the Curtin University branch of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, headed up the research and said evolving technology helped the discovery take place.

“I did not expect to find almost fifty new galaxies in such a short time,” he said.

“By implementing different techniques for finding galaxies, which are used for other MeerKAT surveys, we were able to detect all of these galaxies and reveal their gas content.”

Three galaxies are directly connected by their gas.

“These three are particularly interesting, as by studying the galaxies at other wavelengths of light, we discovered the central galaxy is forming many stars,” Dr Glowacki said.

“It is likely stealing the gas from its companion galaxies to fuel its star formation, which may lead the other two to become inactive.”

Dr Glowacki said he has recently discovered more gas-rich galaxies with the help of summer students, who worked with him and analysed short observations made by MeerKAT.

“We hope to continue our studies and share even more discoveries of new gas-rich galaxies with the wider community soon,” Dr Glowacki said.

The research has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


Holly Hales
(Australian Associated Press)

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