A giant laser has been spotted in deep space. While this may be cause for concern, a reason to call up Will Smith, Tessa Thompson, Tom Cruise, Jodie Foster, or whoever your favorite alien-fighting butt-kicker is, we’re going to pause you right there. And for those of us who are patiently waiting for our alien overlords to come whisk us away to a perfect utopia, we’ll need to hang on for just a little bit longer too. While astronomers have witnessed this giant laser beam coming from outer space, it’s most likely not anything we really need to worry about and probably just the occasional colliding of two galaxies.
If you ask us, it’s a lose-lose. Aliens pointing a laser at us or two galaxies smashing into a giant cosmic blast? Both seem like things that could inevitably end human existence as we know it. As for the laser, which in technical terms is called a “megamaser,” it arrived to our eyes from five billion light-years away! That’s really, really, REALLY far and, according to CBS News, is in fact the most distant beam to ever be detected. In fact, the event may have taken place long before the forming of our very own solar system, which is hard to wrap your head around.
The laser was located by an incredibly strong telescope in South Africa, where scientists named it a Zulu word, Nkalakatha, which translates to “big boss.” And what a big boss it is. Making the discovery of the beam even more mystical is that it happened on the first night of an observation that was set to unfold over a 3,000 hour time span. On the very first evening with the MeerKAT telescope, the scientists at the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research clocked in Nkalakatha which, as put by one of the scientists behind the discovery, Dr. Marcin Glowacki, speaks volumes on how amazing the telescope is. We’d say it also shows how incredibly lucky that team was to be able to discover such a big finding on the first night of their study.
The overall goal with the MeerKAT is to allow astronomers the opportunity to seek out incredibly narrow sections of the farthest reaches of the sky in hopes of learning intricate details surrounding how the Universe has evolved. The discovery of this laser is huge as it gave the researchers a front-row seat to witness one of the most insane events in space: the collision of galaxies. Not only will it help them uncover how the Universe has changed through the years, but it will also aid them in understanding exactly what happens when galaxies collide – something that we hope doesn’t happen here any time soon.
Because of how spankin’ brand new the technology is, we have no way of knowing just how many scientific breakthroughs the MeerKAT will bring to the table. Galaxies imploding on one another is just the beginning! Hopefully, the telescope will eventually pick up more cosmic fodder and lasers as we continue to explore the deepest darkest reaches of space.