MeerKAT helps in discovery of 49 new galaxies in just 3 hours. — ICRAR/fILE

Astronomers discover 49 galaxies in just 3 hours using MeerKAT telescope

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MeerKAT helps in discovery of 49 new galaxies in just 3 hours. — ICRAR/fILE

A “gold rush” of new galaxies has caught astronomers off guard, yielding 49 discoveries in 3 hours.

A team used the South African radio telescope MeerKAT to discover the gas-rich galaxies. The term “forty-niners,” which refers to the moniker bestowed to the thousands of gold miners who poured into California during the team’s Gold Rush, which reached its zenith in 1849, has been used for them. The American football team San Francisco 49ers now plays under the same name, according to Space.

When the astronomy team discovered the almost 50 new galaxies, they were definitely not messing around. Their goal was to investigate the gas that forms stars in a solitary radio galaxy. Rather, in observations spanning roughly 180 minutes, they discovered 49 additional galaxies, highlighting the capability of MeerKat to uncover star-forming gas.

The 49 new galaxies are considered “gold nuggets” for astronomers by Marcin Glowacki, research head at the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Western Australia. Their finding is probably just as fortunate as the initial gold nuggets found at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California, which in 1848 ignited the California Gold Rush.

“I did not expect to find almost 50 new galaxies in such a short time,” Glowacki 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.”

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