satellite dish

Australia’s time machine gets down to business

The ASKAP radio telescope, about 800 kilometres north of Perth, is taking new images of space to help scientists better understand the origins of the Universe.

Professor Elaine Sadler is the principal investigator of an ASKAP project working with European researchers, dubbed FLASH, for First Large Absorption Survey in H1. She and her team are looking for hydrogen in the Universe.

“At the time of the Big Bang, the Universe was essentially made of hydrogen and helium. Hydrogen is still the most common element, and the raw material for making new stars,” says Professor Sadler.

The ASKAP telescope works as a time machine looking out into the distant Universe, to see things as they were at the time that the light began to travel.

“One of the other surveys, dubbed WALLABY, is looking across the whole scope of galaxies that are reasonably near to us, looking at their hydrogen clouds and mapping out places where new stars are forming,” says Professor Sadler.

“We’re learning about how the hydrogen in the Universe was distributed five or six billion years ago, compared to how it is now,” she says.