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Milky Way not unusual, astronomers find

Detailed cross-section of another galaxy reveals surprising similarities to our home

The first detailed cross-section of a galaxy broadly similar to the Milky Way, published today, reveals that our galaxy evolved gradually, instead of being the result of a violent mash-up. The finding throws the origin story of our home into doubt.

The galaxy, dubbed UGC 10738, turns out to have distinct ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ discs similar to those of the Milky Way. This suggests, contrary to previous theories, that such structures are not the result of a rare long-ago collision with a smaller galaxy. They appear to be the product of more peaceful change.

And that is a game-changer. It means that our spiral galaxy home isn’t the product of a freak accident. Instead, it is typical.

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More than 60 years to achieve gender equity?

Modelling shows urgent need to revamp hiring and working conditions for astronomers

It will take until at least 2080 before women make up just one-third of Australia’s professional astronomers, an analysis published today in the journal Nature Astronomy reveals.

“Astronomers have been leaders in gender equity initiatives, but our programs are not working fast enough,” says Professor Lisa Kewley, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D).

Professor Lisa Kewley.
Credit: ASTRO 3D

Kewley is also an ARC Laureate Fellow at the Australian National University’s Research School for Astronomy and Astrophysics. She developed workforce forward modelling that can predict the fraction of women at all levels in astronomy from 2021 to 2060, given different initiatives in hiring or retention. The models show that Australia’s university leadership need to adopt 50:50 or affirmative action hiring and introduce exit surveys and retention initiatives.

“With these initiatives we can reach one-third women in 11 years, growing to 50 per cent in 25,” she said.

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Can a brain scanner fit into an ambulance?

Innovative Adelaide-based manufacturer Micro-X has received funding to develop a game-changing portable brain scanner from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

The scanner will be small enough to be placed in ambulances or Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft and will give more Australians rapid access to treatment in the crucial first “golden hour” after a stroke.

It is expected to revolutionise stroke care particularly for rural and remote Australians who are twice as likely as city stroke survivors to be left with a serious, lifelong disability.

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At cosmic noon, puffy galaxies make stars for longer

Galaxies with extended disks maintain productivity, research reveals

Massive galaxies with extra-large extended “puffy” disks produced stars for longer than their more compact cousins, new modelling reveals.

In a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal, researchers led by Dr Anshu Gupta and Associate Professor Kim-Vy Tran from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D), show that the sheer size of a galaxy influences when it stops making new stars. 

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The secrets of 3000 galaxies laid bare

Completion of Australian-led astronomy project sheds light on the evolution of the Universe

The complex mechanics determining how galaxies spin, grow, cluster and die have been revealed following the release of all the data gathered during a massive seven-year Australian-led astronomy research project.

The scientists observed 13 galaxies at a time, building to a total of 3068, using a custom-built instrument called the Sydney-AAO Multi-Object Integral-Field Spectrograph (SAMI), connected to the 4-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) at Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales. The telescope is operated by the Australian National University.

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Vaccines alone won’t keep Australia COVID-safe, review finds

Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences urges multi-pronged response for 2021

High levels of testing, efficient vaccine distribution and addressing pandemic mental health impacts are critical if Australia is to maintain control over COVID-19 in 2021, the country’s learned body for health and medical sciences has concluded.

The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS), an independent body comprising more than 400 senior researchers, has released a report spelling out the necessary next steps for pandemic response in the new year.

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No more than 10 a week and 4 a day…

National Health and Medical Research Council confirms new national guidelines for reducing the health risks from drinking alcohol.

The guidelines are the result of four years of extensive review of the evidence on the harms and benefits of drinking alcohol.

They replace the previous version, published in 2009. They will underpin policy decisions and public health messaging for many years to come.

“We’re not telling Australians how much to drink,” says Professor Anne Kelso, CEO of NHMRC.

“We’re providing advice about the health risks so that we can all make informed decisions in our daily lives.”

Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer, adds: “Every year there are more than 4,000 alcohol-related deaths in Australia, and more than 70,000 hospital admissions. Alcohol is linked to more than 40 medical conditions, including many cancers.

“Following the guidelines keeps the risk of harm from alcohol low, but it does not remove all risk. Healthy adults drinking within the guideline recommendations have less than a 1 in 100 chance of dying from an alcohol-related condition.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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