An international team of astronomers has used ultra-sensitive radio images to reveal thousands of star-forming galaxies in the early universe.
he scientists compiled the images using the International Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) telescope, a trans-European network of radio antennas.
It works by combining the signals from more than 70,000 antenna with help from European countries including Ireland.
By observing the same regions of sky repeatedly and combining the data to make a single very-long exposure image, the team detected the faint radio glow of stars exploding as supernovae, in tens of thousands of galaxies out to the most distant parts of the universe .
To produce the images, more than four petabytes of raw data – equivalent to about a million DVDs – were taken and processed.
“When we look at the sky with a radio telescope, the brightest objects we see are produced by massive black holes at the center of galaxies,” study leader Philip Best from University said.
“The light from these galaxies has been traveling for billions of years to reach the Earth – this means that we see the galaxies as they were billions of years ago, back when they were forming most of their stars.”
Team member Isabella Prandoni, from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, said: “Star formation is usually enshrouded in dust, which obscures our view when we look with optical telescopes. But radio waves penetrate the dust. ”