Stunning close-up reveals secrets of Milky Way's neighbour

Image: Nickolas Pingel et al.

A stunning image captured by researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) and Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, shows one of the Milky Way's closest neighbours in new detail.

Lead author of the study, Dr Nickolas Pingel, says it is the clearest ever picture of hydrogen emitted from the Small Magellanic Cloud.

"The clarity of this image is unprecedented," he said.

"We're able to see all of the small-scale structures for the first time. It's an important step in understanding the role hydrogen plays in the evolution of galaxies.

"For example, you can see holes within the gas. This shows us that hydrogen interacts with supernovae."

This study focused on the Small Magellanic Cloud - the nearest satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

The team used the CSIRO's ASKAP radio telescope and high-tech software to capture and process 100 hours of data.

Now they hope to take the project a step further.

"This specific image was part of a pilot survey," Dr Pingel said.

"Over the next year we are going to collect more observations. Eventually we'll be able to connect them and make a giant mosaic which will show how this galaxy connects to its nearby neighbours."

The study has been published online.

The project is part of the Galactic ASKAP (GASKAP) Survey, one of several priority projects to be undertaken with the ASKAP radio telescope. ASKAP is a radio telescope located in Western Australia. It has 36 dish antennas which work together as one telescope and can generate more raw data at a faster rate than Australia's entire internet traffic. 

CSIRO acknowledges the Wajarri Yamatji as the traditional owners of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory site where ASKAP is located.

More information about ASKAP is available here.

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