Autumn 2022 ASKAP update

A dark night sky with blurry stars and galaxies in the background. Central to the image are large fuzzy aqua rings.

Data from SARAO’s MeerKAT radio telescope data (green) showing the odd radio circles, is overlaid on optical and near infra-red data from the Dark Energy Survey.  Credit: J. English (U. Manitoba)/EMU/MeerKAT/DES(CTIO)

ASKAP was in the news recently, having discovered the original odd radio circles (so called ORCs) over the past few years. Now, research scientists working with ASKAP are also using South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope to peer further into these strange features of our Universe. A new image has been released from the MeerKAT data, showing the odd radio circles in incredible detail.

Odd radio circles are so far away, so faint and so rare, that they could not be seen until ASKAP’s surveying capabilities were turned skyward. While we’re still not sure what they are, the new MeerKAT image is providing more clues. There are three leading theories: they could be the remnant of a huge explosion at the centre of their host galaxy, like the merger of two supermassive black holes; two powerful jets of energetic particles spewing out of the galaxy’s centre; or the result of a shockwave from the production of stars in the galaxy. We know there will be more updates to this mystery throughout the year!

Meanwhile, the ASKAP team is preparing to start our first multi-year survey campaign later this year. The second phase of pilot surveys is nearly complete and when it is, we’ll take a few months to improve the telescope. After that, we’ll be commencing ASKAP’s first 5-year mission and shifting to a mode of continuous operation!

Aidan Hotan, ASKAP Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO and

Rachel Rayner, ASKAP Communications Advisor, CSIRO