Key Takeaways:

  • Australian astronomers created a detailed map of 83% of the observable universe using ASKAP radio telescope.
  • The survey, nicknamed “Google map of the universe,” took only 300 hours, significantly faster than previous all-sky surveys.
  • Researchers estimate they found 3 million galaxies, with potentially millions more unseen before.
  • A network of supercomputers processed massive data from the telescope’s 36 receivers to create the final map.
  • The public can access the survey data through CSIRO’s Data Access Portal for further exploration.

In just 300 hours, Australian astronomers have mapped 83% of the observable universe.

This survey of the sky, called a “Google map of the universe” by Australia’s national science agency (CSIRO), completes a significant test for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope, which is a network of 36 antennas based in the remote Outback of Western Australia. Even though ASKAP has been used by astronomers since 2012 to search the sky for radio signatures, such as mysterious fast radio bursts, the telescope’s entire array of antennas has never been utilized in a single sky survey—until now.

The ASKAP radio telescope array, located in the Australian outback, just mapped 3 million galaxies in less than a month.
The ASKAP radio telescope array, located in the Australian outback, just mapped 3 million galaxies in less than a month. (Image credit: CSIRO)

According to a paper published in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, researchers mapped about 3 million galaxies in the southern sky by fully utilizing the telescope. According to the researchers, astronomy may have never heard of up to a million of these far-off galaxies, and that’s probably only the beginning. Scientists from CSIRO are already preparing for even more in-depth observations in the upcoming years, thanks to the success of this initial survey.

Lead study author David McConnell, an astronomer at CSIRO, said in a statement, “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.”

Completing many all-sky surveys may require several months or even years. CSIRO’s latest project, called the Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey, was completed in a matter of weeks by stargazing. A specialized network of supercomputers worked nonstop to combine the enormous, panoramic images of the sky that were captured by each of the telescope’s 36 receivers. The final map, which encompasses 83% of the sky, is the result of combining 903 separate photos, each with 70 billion pixels. (In contrast, the highest-definition cameras available for purchase capture images with a few hundred million pixels).

The CSIRO Data Access Portal will provide the public with public access to all of these images while researchers examine the findings and prepare for their upcoming sky-charting missions.

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