Out there

Look: Stunning simulation shows 4.4 million galaxies in the northern sky

Aladin Sky Atlas / CDS, Strasbourg Observatory, France

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Mapping the entire cosmos is an ongoing challenge for astronomers.

Even incremental progress can give us an unprecedented look at what’s out there.

Last week, an international research team released a new map and dataset that documents 4.4 million galaxies, giving us the most detailed look at the northern sky in radio wavelengths to date.

Aladin Sky Atlas / CDS, Strasbourg Observatory, France

ASTRON

Researchers spent seven years scanning the skies with LOFAR, a low-frequency radio telescope with an array of antenna stations scattered across Europe.

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About a million of the space objects documented in the new dataset had previously never been seen with a telescope.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for future discoveries in space.

LOFAR data has been instrumental for researchers in the past, leading to observations of colliding galaxies and even regions that could host alien life.

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And this likely won’t be the last time we get a haul of new cosmic information.

The latest data dump is the second from an ongoing program, called the LOFAR Two-Metre Sky Survey, or LoTSS.

“Each time we create a map, our screens are filled with new discoveries and objects that have never before been seen by human eyes.”

Astronomer Timothy Shimwell, in a statement.

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Here’s a simulation of every object researchers modeled:

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Each of these glowing dots represents a high-energy object such as a merging galaxy or a black hole at the center of a galaxy.

Frits Sweijen

Aladin Sky Atlas / CDS, Strasbourg Observatory, France

Though 4.4 million galaxies seems like a lot, the current data represents just 27 percent of the survey completed by LOFAR.

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“We anticipate it will lead to many more scientific breakthroughs in the future, including examining how the largest structures in the Universe grow, how black holes form and evolve, the physics governing the formation of stars in distant galaxies, and even detailing the most spectacular phases in the life of stars in our own Galaxy.”

Astronomer Timothy Shimwell, in a statement.