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Death in the 15th century

12 Jun 2015, 01:55 UTC
Death in the 15th century
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PhD student Joe Callingham. Joe is co-supervised by the University of Sydney and CSIRO, and is also affiliated with CAASTRO, the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics. Photo: CAASTRO
A galaxy that ‘died’ around the same time as England’s King Richard III may help astronomers improve their cosmic accounting.
According to PhD student Joe Callingham, this galaxy, a strong radio source called PKS B0008-421, gave up the ghost just 550 years ago — about the time the Wars of the Roses were raging in England.
In astronomical terms, that’s the blink of an eye.
The Battle of Barnet (1471), a key clash during the Wars of the Roses. Richard III was killed in 1485, at the Battle of Bosworth. (Public domain image.)
PKS B0008-421 was discovered with our Parkes radio telescope in the 1960s.
At first glance, PKS B0008-421 is completely boring. Just a dot in the sky, it has doesn’t seem to have changed since it was discovered: not grown stronger or weaker, or changed shape or size.
But an unchanging source like this is actually really valuable to radio astronomers: they use it as a reference, a calibrator, to monitor the performance of their telescopes.
From time ...

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