Episode 32: The MeerKAT Fornax Survey

with Dr Paolo Serra

In this episode we will be discussing some more exciting work being conducted with the MeerKAT radio telescope. We’re joined by Dr Paolo Serra from the Cagliari Astronomical Observatory in Italy. He is the principal investigator of the MeerKAT Fornax Survey.

The Fornax Cluster is a nearby galaxy cluster containing about 60 large galaxies and a similar number of dwarf galaxies. Astronomers have estimated that the centre of the Fornax Cluster is in the region 65 million light-years from Earth. It is one of the closest of such clusters beyond our Local Group of galaxies.

The central part of the Fornax Galaxy Cluster as seen by the VLT Survey Telescope. Image credit: ESO / Aniello Grado / Luca Limatola.

Paolo and his team are using the MeerKAT telescope astronomers to study the physics of gas that is accreting onto and being stripped off galaxies as they fall into the Fornax cluster.

They have already used this data to discover hydrogen gas getting stripped off a big radio galaxy, called Fornax A, at the cluster centre. This solves the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the gas missing from Fornax A.

This week’s guest:

Featured Image:

Fornax A is a galaxy with a very active black hole in its core that is spraying radio waves out into enormous jets. Here, the white glow in the center is the visible galaxy NGC 1316 that you can see through the constellation of Fornax. Notice the wee spiral galaxy above it? These two galaxies are merging, and as gas and dust are stripped out of the small galaxy and poured into the center of NGC 1316, the black hole nestled there spins it up. How do we know this? The huge radio lobes to either side of this merger are the telltale signs that a black hole is being fed more than it can handle. These are the billowing ends of powerful jets shooting out spun-up, escaped material far into space.
Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF

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