Australian astronomers have just made a map of 83% of the universe, and they did it in only 300 hours.
The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope is a network of 36 antennas embedded in the remote Western Australia Outback. This telescope has been used by astronomers to search for radio signatures in the sky since 2012.
It is also used to scour for fast radio bursts. This sky survey is the first one that was done using all of the telescope’s antennas. That is why Australia’s national science agency (CSIRO) described this sky survey as a “Google map of the universe”.
Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia journal published a paper on November 30, 2020, where researchers wrote that by using the full potential of this telescope, astronomers have succeeded to map around 3 million galaxies in the southern sky.
Almost one million of these galaxies were previously unknown, and according to the researchers, this is only the beginning. CSIRO scientists are planning to do even more thorough observations soon.
David McConnell, astronomer and the leading author of the study stated that for the first time ASKAP has built the most detailed map of the universe that was ever done at record time. As he says, they expect millions of new galaxies to be revealed in future surveys.
Usually, surveys take months to several years to be completed. But this survey was made in just a few weeks of stargazing. That is why it was labeled the Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey.
The telescope’s 36 receivers were taking panoramic pictures of the sky and at the same time, a network of supercomputers was working double faster to combine them all. The map that covers 83% of the sky consists of 903 pictures combined. Each one of them contains 70 billion pixels, and the highest-definition camera can snap a hundred million pixels per image.
You can see all of these pictures on the CSIRO’s Data Access Portal as soon as they are published.