An international team of astronomers led by ASTRON astronomer Dr. George Heald, in the third week of March 2013 discovered an unknown huge radio galaxy, by making use of the powerful International LOFAR Telescope (ILT), built by ASTRON. The galaxy was discovered in the LOFAR's first all-sky imaging survey called Multi-frequency Snapshot Sky Survey (MSSS).
The new source which was equivalent to the size of full Moon was identified while analysis of the MSSS images. The radio emission was observed, which is associated with the material that is ejected from one of the members of interacting galaxy triplet system. Physical extent of this material is said to be much larger than system of galaxy, which actually extends millions of light years across the intergalactic space.
It is important to note that the MSSS is still under process. The newly found galaxy is the member of group of objects known as Giant Radio Galaxies (GRGs). GRGs, as the name suggest, are kind of radio galaxies which have huge physical size, indicating towards the fact that either they are very old or very powerful. LOFAR is one of the most efficient tools for exploring the GRGs because it is very sensitive to the large objects. LOFAR operates at low frequencies which are very much suitable for observation of the old sources.
The team of astronomers which is performing this ongoing MSSS comprises of 50 members from different institutes, most of which are in Italy, Poland, France, Netherlands and Germany.
What is ASTRON?
ASTRON stands for Dutch Stichting ASTRonomisch Onderzoek in Nederland. It is actually the Dutch foundation that conducts research in radio astronomy. Radio astronomy is basically the subfield of astronomy which conducts study of the celestial objects located at the radio frequencies.
What is LOFAR?
LOFAR stands for Low-Frequency Array for radio astronomy. It was built as well as designed by Netherlands astronomical foundation called ASTRON. Its operations are managed by the ASTRON's radio observatory.
LOFAR is basically the largest connected radio telescope built by making use of the new concept based on range of omni-directional antennas.
What is Multi-frequency Snapshot Sky Survey (MSSS)?
The MSSS conducted by LOFAR is determined effort to analyse the northern sky at extremely low radio frequencies, between wavelengths varying from 2m to 10m. Primarily, the aim of this survey is performing the initial scan of sky for creating the all-sky model which will in turn help in deeper observations.