Astronomers in Australia have just mapped 83% of the observable Universe in just 300 hours.
This new air survey, which Australia’s National Scientific Agency (CSIRO) described in a statement as a “Google map of the universe”, it marks the completion of a major test for the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope – a network of 36 antennas rooted in the remote Western Australia Outback. While astronomers have used ASKAP to scan the sky for radio signatures (including mysterious rapid radio bursts) since 2012, the telescope’s full array of antennas have never been used in a single aerial survey until now.
Using the telescope’s full potential, researchers mapped about 3 million galaxies in the southern sky, according to a paper published Nov. 30 in the journal. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia. As many as 1 million of these distant galaxies may have been previously unknown to astronomy, the researchers wrote, and that’s probably just the beginning. With the success of this first survey, CSIRO scientists are already planning even more in-depth observations in the coming years.
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“For the first time, ASKAP has flexed its full muscles and built a map of the universe in greater detail than ever before, and at record speed,” said lead author David McConnell, a CSIRO astronomer. said in a statement. “We expect to find tens of millions of new galaxies in future studies.”
Many studies across the sky can take months, even years. CSIRO’s new effort, which they have dubbed the Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey, took just a few weeks of stargazing. While each of the telescope’s 36 receivers took huge, panoramic photos of the sky, a special network of supercomputers worked double to combine them. The resulting map, covering 83% of the sky, is a combination of 903 individual images of 70 billion pixels each. (By comparison, the highest resolution cameras on the market make a few hundred million pixels per image).
Each of these images will be made public through CSIRO’s Data Access Portal as scientists analyze the results and plan their next sky-charting adventures.
Originally published on Live Science.