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    We report the detection of the ground state rotational emission of ammonia, ortho-NH3 (JK = 10 → 00) in a gravitationally lensed intrinsically hyperluminous star-bursting galaxy at z = 2.6. The integrated line profile is consistent with other molecular and atomic emission lines which have resolved kinematics well modelled by a 5 kpc-diameter rotating disc. This implies that the gas responsible for NH3 emission is broadly tracing the global molecular reservoir, but likely distributed in pockets of high density (n ≳ 5 × 104 cm−3). With a luminosity of 2.8 × 106 L⊙, the NH3 emission represents 2.5 × 10−7 of the total infrared luminosity of the galaxy, comparable to the ratio observed in the Kleinmann–Low nebula in Orion and consistent with sites of massive star formation in the Milky Way. If $L_{\rm NH_3}/L_{\rm IR}$ serves as a proxy for the ‘mode’ of star formation, this hints that the nature of star formation in extreme starbursts in the early Universe is similar to that of Galactic star-forming regions, with a large fraction of the cold interstellar medium in this state, plausibly driven by a storm of violent disc instabilities in the gas-dominated disc. This supports the ‘full of Orions’ picture of star formation in the most extreme galaxies seen close to the peak epoch of stellar mass assembly.

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    Galactic plane radio surveys play a key role in improving our understanding of a wide range of astrophysical phenomena. Performing such a survey using the latest interferometric telescopes produces large data rates necessitating a shift towards fully or quasi-real-time data analysis with data being stored for only the time required to process them. We present here the overview and set-up for the 3000-h Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie (MPIfR)–MeerKAT Galactic Plane Survey (MMGPS). The survey is unique by operating in a commensal mode, addressing key science objectives of the survey including the discovery of new pulsars and transients and studies of Galactic magnetism, the interstellar medium and star formation rates. We explain the strategy coupled with the necessary hardware and software infrastructure needed for data reduction in the imaging, spectral, and time domains. We have so far discovered 78 new pulsars including 17 confirmed binary systems of which two are potential double neutron star systems. We have also developed an imaging pipeline sensitive to the order of a few tens of micro-Jansky ($\mu{\rm Jy}$) with a spatial resolution of a few arcseconds. Further science operations with an in-house built S-band receiver operating between 1.7 and 3.5 GHz are about to commence. Early spectral line commissioning observations conducted at S-band, targeting transitions of the key molecular gas tracer CH at 3.3 GHz already illustrate the spectroscopic capabilities of this instrument. These results lay a strong foundation for future surveys with telescopes like the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

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