A radio telescope detects thousands of galaxies forming stars in the early universe

The images capture dramas billions of years ago in the early universe – glowing galaxies, bright stars exploding into supernovae, and blazing jets fired from black holes.

Optical image of the galaxy M106 superimposed on the image of material emissions in the galaxy (orange) taken by the Low-Frequency Array radio telescope (LOFAR), February 19, 2019. Photo: AFP

European giant radio telescope LOFAR has discovered stars born in tens of thousands of distant galaxies with unprecedented precision, in a series of studies released Wednesday.

Using techniques that correspond to very long exposures and with a field of view approximately 300 times larger than a full moon, scientists have been able to distinguish galaxies like the Milky Way deep in the ancient universe.

“The light of these galaxies travels billions of years to reach Earth; that means we see galaxies as they were billions of years ago, when they formed most of their stars,” said Philip Best of Britain. The University of Edinburgh, which conducted a detailed study of the telescope in a press release.

The LOFAR telescope combines signals from a vast network of more than 70,000 individual antennas in countries from Ireland to Poland, connected by a high-speed optical network. They are able to observe very weak and low-energy light, invisible to the human eye, created by ultra-energy particles that travel close to the speed of light.