A new sky survey may reveal further evidence of massive ‘super Jupiters’ orbiting distant stars. The National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array (VLA) is being used to conduct the survey at 74 MHz, a frequency far lower than those used for conventional radio astronomy. Normally, Earth’s ionosphere makes low-frequency radio imaging difficult, but the survey has employed a set of techniques that promise to reveal new categories of deep-sky objects.
“We expect to find very distant radio galaxies — galaxies spewing jets of material at nearly light speed and powered by supermassive black holes,” said Joseph Lazio of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. “By determining just how distant these radio galaxies are, we will learn how early the black holes formed in the history of the Universe,” he added.
As for those ‘super Jupiters,’ they may show up through bursts of radio emission at the frequencies this survey is studying. Other possible catches include previously undiscovered pulsars — spinning neutron stars — and the halos produced by ancient galactic collisions. The survey will use some 800 hours of VLA observing time. Images and data are available at the NRAO Web site.