A new instrument at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) can sample the light coming from hundreds of galaxies per night—which can tell us new things about the universe.
Sydney-AAO Multi-object Integral field spectrograph (SAMI) can look at up to 100 galaxies in a night, because it can look at 60 different regions in each of 13 different galaxies, all at once.
But most observatories around the world can only do one galaxy at a time.
“From a single sampling, you can’t tell if, or how, a galaxy is moving,” AAO astronomer Dr Jon Lawrence says. “With SAMI, we can.”
SAMI can achieve these feats thanks to two smart features.
First, arrays of close-packed optical fibres called hexabundles allow the sampling of light from many regions of a galaxy at once.
Second, instead of just one hexabundle interpreting this light, there are multiple units—SAMI has 13 bundles of optical fibres taking the feed of spatial information.
The speed of galactic winds and the conditions that give birth to stars are part of what Jon and his team hope to glean from SAMI, which starts its official scientific data collection in August 2012.
SAMI was developed by the Astrophotonics Group at the University of Sydney, and the AAO. Australia is now ramping up its capacity to manufacture the hexabundles as well.