News

Hubble Space Telescope Observations Awarded to Sydney Astronomers


9 June 2011

Two astronomers in the School of Physics, Professor Geraint Lewis and Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn, have each been awarded individual observation time on the Hubble Space Telescope.


"Hubble observation time is internationally sought after and very competitive," says Professor Lewis who is known for his work on galactic clusters.


Professor Lewis' project is targeting old stellar systems, known as globular clusters and is part of a large international team, led by Dougal Mackey at ANU, and includes astronomers based in North America, the UK and Europe.


"These clusters are orbiting our nearest cosmic neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy at very large distance. While Andromeda seems to have a number of these, our own galaxy, the Milky Way, does not. We really want to know why there is this difference."


Professor Lewis says that using Hubble the astronomers will be able to accurately see individual stars in these globular clusters, something that is impossible from the ground.


"We will be able to chart out the history of the globulars, and work out just where they came from, providing important clues to the formation and evolution of galaxies. So to get observing time on telescope as great as Hubble is fantastic for Australian science."


Professor Bland-Hawthorn, an ARC Federation Fellow, is part of a team of comprising five astronomers from the USA and one Australian scientist who have been granted "20 orbits" to use the COS ultraviolet spectrograph.


"We are studying the Magellanic Stream, which is a stream of gas discovered by Australian radio astronomers in the 1970s that wraps right around the Galaxy."


Earlier work by Professor Bland-Hawthorn showed that what can be seen with radio telescopes is only a fraction of the gas.


"Much of it is warm, or even hot, but you can only see this with optical and, especially, UV telescopes," he explains, "We want to confirm this claim from my work and my modelling, and demonstrate that much of the gas falling into the Galaxy is in the form of a warm rain."



Contact: Alison Muir

Phone: 02 90361594

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