New Australian Telescope System Maps Three Million Galaxies in World Record Time

December 1, 2020 Updated: December 1, 2020

The CSIRO took less than two weeks to map three million galaxies using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), a world-leading radio telescope system.  ASKAP also broke records as it conducted its first survey of the entire southern sky, mapping approximately three million galaxies in just 300 hours.

CSIRO Head Larry Marshall said the survey had unlocked the deepest secrets of the universe.

“ASKAP is applying the very latest in science and technology to age-old questions about the mysteries of the Universe and equipping astronomers around the world with new breakthroughs to solve their challenges,” Marshall said in a statement.

Scientists were able to discover around a million new galaxies as they mapped millions of star-like points on the map in the outback Western Australia observatory.

“We expect to find tens of millions of new galaxies in future surveys,” lead author of the study and CSIRO Astronomer David McConnell said.

The CSIRO also notes that their success in rapidly surveying the sky means that an all-sky survey can be completed in weeks rather than years.

The ASKAR telescope is unique among the major world telescopes as it has a particularly wide field of view, enabling it to take panoramic pictures of the sky in great detail. The quality of the telescope’s receivers means only 903 images are needed to form a full map of the sky. Other major world telescopes have required tens of thousands of images to put together an all-sky survey.

The CSIRO’s custom-built hardware and software were also able processed the 13.5 exabytes of raw data generated by the telescope at a rate faster than “Australia’s entire internet traffic”, Marshall said.

Federal Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said ASKAP was an example of Australia’s world-leading radio astronomy capability.

“This new survey proves that we are ready to make a giant leap forward in the field of radio astronomy,” Andrews said.

“This census of the Universe will be used by astronomers around the world to explore the unknown and study everything from star formation to how galaxies and their super-massive black holes evolve and interact,” McConnell said.

The initial results will be published on Tuesday, Dec. 2 in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia