The project was completed using South Africa’s MeerKAT telescope, a forerunner of the world’s largest radio station, the SKA Observatory (SKAO), which will explore the atmosphere with unprecedented detail.
The primary purpose of SKAO is to understand evolution, the content of the universe, and the mechanisms that drive its rapid expansion. One way to achieve this is to look at the universe’s structure on a vast scale. In these measurements, all galaxies can be considered as single points, and analysis of their distribution reveals indications about the nature of gravity and mysterious conditions such as black dates and dark forces.
Radio telescopes are an excellent tool for this as they detect the rays of the 21cm wavelength produced by the hydrogen neutral, one of the largest in the universe. By analyzing 3D hydrogen maps covering millions of light-years, we investigate the universe’s total distribution of matter.
SKAO, with its headquarters in Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, is currently under construction. However, there are already pathfinder telescopes, such as the MeerKAT with 64 bowls, located in the direction of its design. Based in the Karoo Desert and hosted by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), MeerKAT will eventually continue to be part of the full SKAO.
MeerKAT and SKAO will operate primarily as interferometers, in which a series of vessels are integrated into a single giant telescope capable of recording high-resolution telescopes. “However, the interferometer will not be sensitive enough to the largest scale of the cosmologists’ most interesting study of the universe,” explains the lead author of a new research paper, Steven Cunnington. “Therefore, we use the list as a collection of 64 telescopes that allow them to map out the huge celestial bodies needed for cosmology.”
A team runs the one-meal system from the University of the Western Cape, and several ideas have been developed with MeerKAT. This hard work involves many other institutions covering four continents. In a new study published in arXiv and submitted for publication, a team comprising Manchester-based astronomers Cunnington, Laura Wolz, and Keith Grainge presented the first cosmological findings using this one-meal process.
The optical Anglo-Australian Telescope discovered a shared integration strategy between MeerKAT maps and a galaxy. Since these galaxies are known to track the universe’s story, the strong statistical relationship between radio maps and galaxies indicates that the MeerKAT telescope receives a large cosmic structure. This is the first time such a discovery has been made using a series of vessels that serve as individual telescopes. Complete SKAO will depend on this process, and this marks an important milestone in the roadmap of the cosmology and SKAO science case.