News

A new way of looking at the sky


13 March 2012

Professor Bryan Gaensler: "The big unsolved questions in astronomy demand entirely new approaches."
Professor Bryan Gaensler: "The big unsolved questions in astronomy demand entirely new approaches."

Australian astronomers are leading the way with a revolutionary approach to studying the cosmos which looks at huge parts of the sky all at once, to answer some of the big questions about our universe.

This Wednesday 14 March Professor Bryan Gaensler, from the University of Sydney will present a free public talk 'A new way of looking at the sky'.

All-sky astronomy tackles fundamental unsolved problems about the cosmos, such as how the universe evolved, how extreme physics drives sudden changes in the universe, and the nature of the dark energy and dark matter that make up a staggering 95 percent of the universe.

"The traditional approach to astronomy, which looks at tiny patches of stars in detail, has had a lot of success, but we're now running up against a whole range of questions these old approaches can't answer," said Professor Gaensler, who is the Director of CAASTRO- the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics.

"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. Amazingly, we now know almost everything about what the universe looks like and what it's made of, but we don't understand how we got here or how it all works.

At the forefront of developing this new astronomy, CAASTRO is a national centre led by the University of Sydney, in collaboration with the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, Curtin University and Swinburne University of Technology, as well as local and international partners.

Professor Gaensler will describe the technology that is taking shape across Australia, and will explain the amazing discoveries that it is allowing us to make about the universe.

"Our research uses wider fields of view, with bigger data sets, processed more deeply and more subtly than anyone has attempted before," said Professor Gaensler.

"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. The new all-sky telescopes will generate data at a rate so fast it would fill five hundred 160 GB iPods per second.

"Using these new tools, Australia now has the chance to be at the vanguard of the upcoming information revolution in all-sky astronomy."

Introducing one of the biggest projects in all-sky astronomy - the Square Kilometre Array - Professor Gaensler will talk about this next-generation radio telescope, which will be the largest and most powerful radio telescope ever constructed.

Countries from all over the world are involved in planning the Square Kilometre Array and Australia is one of two potential locations for the new telescope being considered by an international panel.


Event details

What: Sydney Science Forum: A new way of looking at the sky

When: 5.45pm, Wednesday 14 March

Where: Eastern Avenue Auditorium, Camperdown Campus

Cost: Free

Bookings: Online or science.forum@sydney.edu.au


Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 02 9351 4312, 0403 067 342, verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au