Durham University astronomers collaborating with a team of international scientists have mapped more than a quarter of the northern sky using the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR), a pan-European radio telescope. The map reveals an astonishingly detailed radio image of more than 4.4 million objects and a very dynamic picture of our Universe, which now has been made public for the first time.
The vast majority of these objects are billions of light-years away and are either Galaxies that harbor massive black holes or rapidly grow new stars. Rarer objects that have been discovered include colliding groups of distant Galaxies and flaring stars within the Milky Way. To produce the map, scientists deployed state-of-the-art data processing algorithms on high-performance computers all over Europe to process 3,500 hours of observations that occupy 8 petabytes of disk space — the equivalent of roughly 20,000 laptops.
This release is only 27% of the entire survey. Researchers anticipated it will lead to many more scientific breakthroughs in the future, including examining how the most significant 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 Galaxy.