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‘Google map of universe’: Australian scientists map millions of galaxies

Massive galaxy cluster. (ALMA Observatory, National Science Foundation, NSF Math & Phys Sci and nature)
December 07, 2020

A group of Australian scientists have mapped around three million galaxies in just 300 hours to create a “new atlas of the universe”, said a new study. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said on Tuesday that its new telescope, Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), conducted its first survey of the entire southern sky in “record speed and detail.”

CSIRO, the national science agency, said in a statement that the survey is like a “Google map of the Universe” in which most of the star-like points are distant galaxies. The design and initial results of the study has been published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia. CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said ASKAP generate more raw data at a faster rate than Australia’s entire internet traffic.

“In a time when we have access to more data than ever before, ASKAP and the supercomputers that support it are delivering unparalleled insights and wielding the tools that will underpin our data-driven future to make life better for everybody.

According to CSIRO, the new data will enable astronomers to study and analyse the huge number of galaxies the same way social scientists use information from a national census. David McConnell, the lead author and CSIRO astronomer, said that the astronomers from around the world will be able to use the survey to explore the unknown and study how galaxies and their supermassive black holes evolve and interact.

“For the first time, ASKAP has flexed its full muscles, building a map of the Universe in greater detail than ever before, and at record speed. We expect to find tens of millions of new galaxies in future surveys,” McConnell said in a statement.

What is ASKAP?

ASKAP is a new type of radio telescope, designed and built by CSIRO, which makes images of radio signals from the sky, enabling astronomers to view the universe at wavelengths that our eyes cannot see. CSIRO’s telescope is a collection of 36 dish antennas spread out over six kilometres in remote outback Western Australia. The telescope creates high-resolution images by combining the signals from 36 smaller dish antennas at a much lower cost than using a single large dish antenna, said the agency.

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