Explained: How a telescope in Australia creates a ‘Google map’ of the Universe

Written by Mehr Gill, Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: December 4, 2020 10:51:20 am

The Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), a powerful telescope developed and operated by the country’s science agency CSIRO, mapped more than three million galaxies in record for 300 hours during its first celestial survey. The initial results of this survey were published in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia on 30 November.

What is ASKAP?

ASKAP is a telescope projected more than a decade ago and located about 800 km north of Perth. It was fully operational in February 2019 and is currently conducting pilot surveys of the sky before it can begin large-scale projects starting in 2021.

ASKAP surveys are designed to map the structure and evolution of the Universe, which it does by observing galaxies and the hydrogen gas they contain.

One of its most important features is its wide field of view, due to which it was able to make panoramic images of the sky in great detail. The telescope uses a new technology developed by CSIRO, which is a kind of “radio camera” to achieve high survey speeds and consists of 36 dish antennas that are 12 m in diameter each.

Using this telescope at CSIRO’s Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory (MRO) in overseas Australia, the research team was able to observe more than 83 per cent of the sky visible from the ASKAP website in Western Australia. For the current survey, it has combined more than 903 images to form the full map of the sky.

Basically, the telescope could map a vast area of ​​the universe, something that would otherwise last close to a decade.📣 Follow Explicit Explained in Telegram

What is the meaning of the results?

The current Rapid ASKAP Continuous Survey (RACS) conducted by the ASKAP telescope is similar to a “Google map” of the Universe, where most millions of stellar points are distant galaxies, of which about a million have not been seen before. Mapping the Universe on such a scale enables astronomers to study the formation of stars and how galaxies and their supermassive black holes evolve and interact with each other.

Significantly the images the telescope made are on average deeper and have better spatial resolution compared to those taken during other surveys of the sky. The purpose of the RACS survey is to generate images that will aid future surveys with a telescope.

Furthermore, the results of various surveys conducted by ASKAP are also being used for the development of the Square Mile Table (SKA), which is an international project aimed at building the world’s largest radio telescopes.

ASKAP is a telescope projected more than a decade ago and located about 800 km north of Perth. (Source: csiro.au)

The results of this survey are significant mainly for two reasons. First, the time that ASKAP took to map the Universe shows that it does not take years and second, the data collected as a result of the survey will help astronomers undertake statistical analyzes of large populations of galaxies.

“Today is a special day for astronomy when we publish the results of the first survey of the southern sky of our ASKAP telescope. What used to last for years can now be done in days revealing more of the Universe – about a million times more! CSIRO said on Twitter.

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