Wide Eyed View of the Universe
James Bullen
at 00:00 AM Sep 15 2011
The future Australian Square Kilometre Array

Scientists from around Australia will attempt to shed light on dark energy and dark matter through a new research collective.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), launched September 12, brings together experts from the University of Sydney, Australian National University, University of Melbourne, University of Western Australia, Curtin University and Swinburne University of Technology. 

These experts aim to investigate three main areas: the evolving universe, the dynamic universe and the dark universe.

In doing so, they hope to find answers to when the universe formed, how it has evolved, how high-energy physics affects the universe and what dark matter is.

This is where the technology comes in. Traditional telescopes including the very powerful Hubble telescope take crisp images but see only small portions of sky at a time. Director of CAASTRO, Professor Bryan Gaensler, says new telescopes being built in Australia will take high quality images like the Hubble telescope, but of much larger portions of sky. 

"In the last few years, Australia has invested more than $400 million in new wide-field telescopes and the high-performance computers needed to process the resulting torrents of data. Using these new tools, Australia now has the chance to be at the vanguard of the upcoming information revolution in all-sky astronomy," he said.

These wide-field telescopes are at the core of CAASTRO’s plan to investigate the evolving, dynamic and dark universe.

Professor Gaensler says they’re what is needed to move into new areas of understanding in astronomy. 

"The big unsolved questions in astronomy demand entirely new approaches, requiring us to look at the whole sky at once, rather than studying single objects in the sky in isolation.

"You really need to look at how everything works together to truly understand what is going on out there and that's what CAASTRO will do with our all-sky approach to astronomy,” he said.

Telescopes which will be used in the research include ANU’s SkyMapper, the future Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) and the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA).

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