The powerful new telescope developed by Australian scientists has mapped three million galaxies at a record speed, unlocking the universe’s deepest secrets.
Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (Askap) broke records when it carried out its first survey of the entire southern sky, mapping some three million galaxies in 300 hours.
Scientists use telescopes at an observatory in the interior Western Australia to observe 83% of the sky.
The result is a new atlas of the universe, according to telescope developers and operators, Australia’s science agency CSIRO.
The survey – the Quick Ascap Continuum Survey – has mapped millions of star-like dots; most of these are distant galaxies, says CSIRO. About a million distant galaxies had never been seen before.
The CSIRO chief executive, Larry Marshall, said that the survey had unlocked the deepest secrets of the universe.
“Askap applies the latest science and technology to ancient questions about the mysteries of the universe and equips astronomers around the world with new breakthroughs to solve their challenges,” Marshall said in a statement.
Scientists hope to find tens of millions of new galaxies in future surveys, said lead author and CSIRO astronomer David McConnell.
Telescopes map the sky with unprecedented speed and detail. CSIRO said the results prove that sky surveys can be carried out in weeks, not years.
This instrument has a very wide field of view, enabling it to shoot panoramic images of the sky in high detail. The quality of the telescope’s receiver meant that the team only needed to combine 903 images to form a complete sky map.
The world’s other major telescopes require tens of thousands of images to collect surveys of the sky.
CSIRO’s custom-made hardware and software then processes the 13.5 exabytes (13.5 billion gigabytes) of raw data generated by the telescope.
The raw data is being generated at a faster rate than all Australian internet traffic, Marshall said.
Astronomers will be able to statistically analyze large galactic populations in the same way social scientists use information from national censuses.
The federal science and technology minister, Karen Andrews, said Askap was a leading example of Australia’s radio astronomy capabilities.
“This new survey proves that we are ready to make a big leap in the field of radio astronomy,” he said.
The preliminary results were published Tuesday in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.
Australians can take their own virtual tour over the map on the CSIRO website.