Telescope in Australia is creating a ‘Google map’ of the Universe

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

  • The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), a powerful telescope developed and operated by the country’s science agency CSIRO, has mapped over three million galaxies in a record 300 hours during its first all-sky survey. 

 

Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP)

  • ASKAP is a telescope designed over a decade ago and located about 800 km north of Perth
  • It became fully operational in February 2019 and is currently conducting pilot surveys of the sky before it can begin large-scale projects from 2021.
  • One of its most important features is its wide field of view, because of which it has been able to take panoramic pictures of the sky in great detail
  • The telescope uses novel technology developed by CSIRO, which is a kind of a “radio camera” to achieve high survey speeds and consists of 36 dish antennas, which are each 12m in diameter.

 

Significance

  • The present Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey (RACS) taken by the ASKAP telescope is like a “Google map” of the Universe where most of the millions of star-like points are distant galaxies, about a million of which 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 has taken are on average deeper and have better spatial resolution compared to those taken during other surveys of the sky. 
  • Further, the results of various surveys undertaken using ASKAP are also being used for the development of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which is an international project with the aim of building the world’s largest radio telescopes.
  • The time it has taken ASKAP to map the Universe demonstrates that it is something that does not have to take years, and the data that has been gathered as a result of the survey will help astronomers to undertake statistical analyses of large populations of galaxies.
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