Saturday, 24 November 2012

Powerful telescope to make unprecedented galaxy discoveries

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simulationICRAR2The WALLABY and DINGO surveys are estimated to discover 40 times more galaxies than any previous HI surveys. Image: International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research. SCIENTISTS predict that the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP)—Australia’s newest radio telescope and forerunner to the Square Kilometre Array project (SKA)—will be capable of discovering an unprecedented 700,000 new galaxies.

The ASKAP telescope, located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in WA’s Mid West, is made up of 36 identical antennas, each measuring 12 metres in diameter and all work together as a single instrument.

By combining computer simulations of the universe with the ASKAP’s specifications researchers are able to predict its vast capabilities.

Dr Alan Duffy from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at the University of Western Australia is the co-author of a paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society outlining the ASKAP’s potential.

The paper, ‘Predictions for ASKAP Neutral Hydrogen Surveys’, presents predictions for two proposed extragalactic ASKAP Neutral Hydrogen (HI) emission-line surveys.

These surveys are estimated to discover 40 times more galaxies than any previous HI surveys.

The paper says ‘the ASKAP HI All-Sky survey, known as WALLABY is a shallow 3 Pi survey and will probe the mass and dynamics of over 600,000 galaxies.’

‘A much deeper small area HI survey, called DINGO, aims to trace the evolution of HI…detecting potentially 100,000 galaxies.’

Dr Duffy says the WALLABY and DINGO surveys would examine galaxies to study hydrogen gas—the fuel that forms stars—and how those galaxies had changed in the last four billion years, allowing us to better understand our own galaxy.

“ASKAP is a highly capable telescope.  Its surveys will find more galaxies, further away and be able to study them in more detail than any other radio telescope in the world until the SKA is built,” he says.

According the CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility website the WALLABY and DINGO surveys are just two of 10 proposed Survey Science Projects (SSP) each needing more than 1,500 hours to complete.

These 10 SSPs will occupy 75 per cent of ANSKAP’s first five years of operation and each one has been designed to exploit the telescope’s unique capabilities.

ASKAP will begin surveying the southern skies in early 2013 and will eventually become part of the world’s largest telescope, the SKA, which will be shared between Australia, New Zealand and Southern Africa.

View video simulation of what the Neutral Hydrogen Surveys will find.

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