Astronomers have revealed the most detailed radio image yet of the Milky Way galaxy’s plane


Astronomers have revealed the most detailed radio image yet of the Milky Way galaxy's plane

Combined images from the ASKAP and Parkes radio telescopes. Credit: R. Kothes (NRC) and the PEGASUS team, author provided

Two major astronomy research programs, called EMU and PEGASUS, have joined forces to solve one of the mysteries of our Milky Way: Where are all the supernova remnants?


A supernova remnant is an extended cloud of gas and dust that represents the final stage in a star’s life, after it exploded as a supernova. But a number Supernova remnant We discovered so far with radio telescopes very low. Models predict 5 fold, so where are the missing models?

We have collected observations from two of the world’s leading radio telescopes in Australia, namely ASKAP Radio Telescope and the Parkes Radio Telescope, Moryangto answer this question.

interstellar gas

The new image reveals thin tendrils and clumps of clouds bound by hydrogen gas that fills the space between stars. We can see sites where new stars are forming, as well as supernova remnants.

In just this tiny speck, only about 1% of the entire Milky Way, we’ve detected more than 20 new potential supernova remnants where only seven were previously known.

These discoveries were led by a Ph.D. Student Brianna Ball of the University of Alberta in Canada, working with her supervisor, Roland Kothes of the National Research Council of Canada, who prepared the image. These new discoveries indicate that we are one step closer to identifying the missing remains.

Why do we see them now when we couldn’t before?

The power of uniting forces

I drive the Evolutionary map of the universe Or the EMU programme, an ambitious project with ASKAP to make the best radio atlas of the Southern Hemisphere.

Astronomers have revealed the most detailed radio image yet of the Milky Way galaxy's plane

Parkes Radio Telescope, Moryang. Credit: CSIRO

The EMU will measure about 40 million new, distant galaxies supermassive black holesTo help us understand how galaxies have changed throughout the history of the universe.

Early EMU data has already led to the discovery of strange radio circuits (or “ORCs”), revealing rare anomalies such as “dancing ghosts”.

For any telescope, the resolution of its images depends on the size of its aperture. Interferometers such as ASKAP simulate a telescope’s much larger aperture. With 36 relatively small dishes (each 12 meters in diameter) but a 6 km distance connecting the farthest of these dishes, ASKAP simulates a single telescope with a 6 km wide dish.

This gives ASKAP good accuracy, but it comes at the cost of lost radio emission on larger scales. In the above comparison, the ASKAP image alone appears very structural.

To recover this missing information, we turned to a companion project called PEGASUS, led by Ettore Caretti of the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics.

PEGASUS uses the 64-meter Parkes/Murriyang telescope — one of the largest single-dish radio telescopes in the world — to map the sky.

Even with such a large dish, Parkes’ accuracy is somewhat limited. By combining information from both Parkes and ASKAP, they fill in the gaps of the other to give us the most accurate picture of this region of our Milky Way galaxy. This combination reveals radio emission at all scales to help reveal the missing supernova remnants.

Correlating datasets from EMU and PEGASUS will allow us to uncover more hidden gems. In the next few years we will have an unprecedented view of almost the entire Milky Way, about a hundred times larger than this initial image, but with the same level of detail and sensitivity.

We estimate there may be as many as 1,500 or more new Supernova Remains not yet discovered. Solving the mystery of this lost relic will open new windows into the history of our Milky Way galaxy.

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