Scientists released an image to inaugurate the completed Meer KAT radio telescope. But these scopes form part of an even more ambitious project: the Square Kilometre Array, a joint effort to build the world’s largest telescope, spanning the continents of Africa and Australia.
This image shows filaments of particles, structures that seem to exist in alignment with the galaxy’s central black hole. It’s unclear what causes these filaments. Maybe they are particles ejected by the spinning black hole; maybe they are hypothesized “cosmic strings;” and maybe they’re not unique, and there are other, similar structures waiting to be found, according to a 2017 release from Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.
Each one of Meer Kat’s 64 radio receivers is a 44-foot radio antenna. They collect radio waves from cosmic sources with a timestamp, convert it to digital information, and send it to a central location. The information from each dish is then correlated together into an image. Imagine how a regular telescope works light is collected by mirrors and focused in the centre. In this case, it’s as if each of the radio telescopes is itself a mirror, and the “centre” is where the fibre optic cables meet to create the main image.