Free telescopes set school kids dancing with the STARS

Astronomers head to the country to spark student interest in what lies above.

ANU astronomer Brad Tucker showing students from Rockhampton High School how to use their powerful new telescope. Credit: ANU Media

Children in remote and regional schools will soon be visited by astronomers bearing gifts in a quest to kindle interest in the cosmos.

The scientists – drawn from the ranks of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3D (ASTRO 3D) and the Australian National University – will donate a powerful telescope and high-tech accessories to each school so classes can continue to explore the Universe long after the astronomers have left.

Continue reading Free telescopes set school kids dancing with the STARS

Orbits of ancient stars prompt rethink on Milky Way evolution

Australian telescopes and European satellite combine to reveal unexpected motions among the Galaxy’s rarest objects

Theories on how the Milky Way formed are set to be rewritten following discoveries about the behaviour of some of its oldest stars.

An investigation into the orbits of the Galaxy’s metal-poor stars – assumed to be among the most ancient in existence – has found that some of them travel in previously unpredicted patterns.

Continue reading Orbits of ancient stars prompt rethink on Milky Way evolution

Playing detective on a galactic scale: huge new dataset will solve multiple Milky Way mysteries

Australian-led GALAH project releases chemical information for 600,000 stars.

How do stars destroy lithium? Was a drastic change in the shape of the Milky Way caused by the sudden arrival of millions of stellar stowaways?

Day and night at the Anglo Australian Telescope. Half right image taken in the late afternoon, the Moon is up. Half left image taken just some few minutes before the beginning of the morning twilight of the same night. Orion and the Pleiades shine over the AAT on a very dark night. 4-5 November 2011. Siding Spring Observatory, NSW, Australia. Credit: Dr Ángel R. López-Sánchez/Australian Astronomical Optics/Macquarie University/ASTRO 3D

These are just a couple of the astronomical questions likely to be answered following the release today of ‘GALAH DR3’, the largest set of stellar chemical data ever compiled.

The data, comprising more than 500 GB of information gleaned from more than 30 million individual measurements, was gathered by astronomers including Sven Buder, Sarah Martell and Sanjib Sharma from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) using the Anglo Australian Telescope (AAT) at the Australian Astronomical Observatory at Siding Spring in rural New South Wales.

Continue reading Playing detective on a galactic scale: huge new dataset will solve multiple Milky Way mysteries

Blinded by the light no more: simulations show NASA’s James Webb Telescope will reveal hidden galaxies

Australian researchers find ways to overcome the blinding glare of quasars

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will uncover galaxies never before seen by humanity, Australian-led research reveals.

The telescope, due to launch in late 2021, is the largest, most powerful and complex space telescope ever built.

Two new studies led by Madeline Marshall from Australia’s University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) find that the Webb will be able to reveal galaxies currently masked by powerful lights called quasars.

Continue reading Blinded by the light no more: simulations show NASA’s James Webb Telescope will reveal hidden galaxies

Why plumbers and teachers should have a say on designer babies and genetically enhanced potatoes

Ethical and social implications of powerful DNA-altering technology are too important to be left to scientists and politicians, researchers find.

Illustration by Alice Mollon

Designer babies, mutant mozzies and frankenfoods: these are the images that often spring to mind when people think of genome editing.

The practice – which alters an organism’s DNA in ways that could be inherited by subsequent generations – is both more complex and less dramatic than the popular tropes suggest.

However, its implications are so profound that a growing group of experts believe it is too important a matter to be left only to scientists, doctors and politicians.

Writing in the journal Science, 25 leading researchers from across the globe call for the creation of national and global “citizens’ assemblies”, made up of lay-people, tasked with considering the ethical and social impacts of this emerging science.

Continue reading Why plumbers and teachers should have a say on designer babies and genetically enhanced potatoes

Elements of surprise: neutron stars contribute little, but something’s making gold, research finds

Colliding neutron stars were touted as the main source of some of the heaviest elements in the Periodic Table. Now, not so much

Neutron star collisions do not create the quantity of chemical elements previously assumed, a new analysis of galaxy evolution finds.

The research also reveals that current models can’t explain the amount of gold in the cosmos – creating an astronomical mystery.

The work has produced a new-look Periodic Table, showing the stellar origins of naturally occurring elements from carbon to uranium.

Continue reading Elements of surprise: neutron stars contribute little, but something’s making gold, research finds

Hungry galaxies grow fat on the flesh of their neighbours

Modelling shows big galaxies get bigger by merging with smaller ones

Distribution of dark matter density overlayed with the gas density. This image cleanly shows the gas channels connecting the central galaxy with its neighbours. Credit: Gupta et al/ASTRO 3D/ IllustrisTNG collaboration.

Galaxies grow large by eating their smaller neighbours, new research reveals.

Exactly how massive galaxies attain their size is poorly understood, not least because they swell over billions of years. But now a combination of observation and modelling from researchers led by Dr Anshu Gupta from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) has provided a vital clue.

Continue reading Hungry galaxies grow fat on the flesh of their neighbours

Windows will soon generate electricity, following solar cell breakthrough

Two square metres of solar window will do the same job as a standard rooftop solar panel, Australian researchers say.

A semi-transparent perovskite solar cell with contrasting levels of light transparency.
Credits: Dr Jae Choul Yu

Semi-transparent solar cells that can be incorporated into window glass are a “game-changer” that could transform architecture, urban planning and electricity generation, Australian scientists say in a paper in Nano Energy.

The researchers – led by Professor Jacek Jasieniak from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science (Exciton Science) and Monash University – have succeeded in producing next-gen perovskite solar cells that generate electricity while allowing light to pass through. They are now investigating how the new technology could be built into commercial products with Viridian Glass, Australia’s largest glass manufacturer.

Continue reading Windows will soon generate electricity, following solar cell breakthrough

Hot qubits made in Sydney break one of the biggest constraints to practical quantum computers

A proof-of-concept published today in Nature promises warmer, cheaper and more robust quantum computing. And it can be manufactured using conventional silicon chip foundries.

Dr Henry Yang and Professor Andrew Dzurak: “hot qubits” are a game-changer for quantum computing development.
Credit: Paul Henderson-Kelly

Most quantum computers being developed around the world will only work at fractions of a degree above absolute zero. That requires multi-million-dollar refrigeration and as soon as you plug them into conventional electronic circuits they’ll instantly overheat.

But now researchers led by Professor Andrew Dzurak at UNSW Sydney have addressed this problem.

Continue reading Hot qubits made in Sydney break one of the biggest constraints to practical quantum computers

Leaky water pipes found at high speed using AI

Researchers have been able to pick a water leak within 1 percent of its location within seconds.

Artificial intelligence combined with pressure waves has been used to find faults in major water pipelines faster and more cheaply than existing methods.

Continue reading Leaky water pipes found at high speed using AI

Hundreds of Aussie science achievements that you can share in speeches, posts and publications