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Algorithms Map Centaurus A Galaxy and Supermassive Black Hole

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Centaurus A galaxy

Overlay of the Centaurus A galaxy with prominent dust lanes and an emerging jet.

Credit: STScI / NASA

The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope team has developed an algorithm that enabled researchers at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) to map Centaurus A, a galaxy that emits a radio glow that covers an area 200 times bigger than the full moon. The algorithm allows researchers to resolve imaging issues caused by a massive difference between the "brightness" of radio waves emitted at the core and edge of the Centaurus A galaxy.

"Because the center is so bright we have a dynamic range issue, which means that when using conventional image processing tools the image is saturated in the bright regions and we are unable to detect the faint emission regions around these very bright areas," says CSIRO's Ilana Feain. "To resolve this, we needed very sophisticated software processing algorithms and these are something that have only recently been developed."

By compiling 406 images taken over 1,200 hours by Australia's Compact Array radio-telescope, the researchers were able to layer the images together using 10,000 hours of processing time. The completed image, and data from a 64-meter radio telescope dish, can be used to start creating an understanding of how the most massive galaxies have formed and evolved over time, Feain says.

CSIRO says that, when completed in 2012, ASKAP will generate more information in one week than is currently contained on the entire Internet. CSIRO will deploy a 100-teraflop cluster to handle the massive amount of data generated, says ASKAP's Tim Cornwell.

From CIO Australia
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