On a mountaintop in northern New South Wales sits a new telescope equipped with Australia’s largest digital camera. The Australian National University’s (ANU) SkyMapper facility has been established at Siding Spring Observatory to conduct the most comprehensive optical survey yet of the southern sky.
Fully automated, the telescope is measuring the shape, brightness and spectral type of over a billion stars and galaxies, down to one million times fainter than the eye can see.
The Mount Stromlo Observatory of the Australian National University (ANU) is rising from the ashes of Canberra’s 2003 bushfires, after an investment of millions of dollars into cutting-edge technologies and facilities.
The Mount Stromlo site—home to the ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA)—no longer acts as a research observatory, but rather as a high-tech hub developing astronomical instruments for the world’s most advanced telescopes. Staff at the RSAA’s Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre have already built multimillion dollar instruments, such as the Near-Infrared Integral-Field Spectrograph (NIFS) for the Gemini North Telescope which provides images in the infrared equivalent to the Hubble Space Telescope in the optical range. Continue reading Mount Stromlo Observatory rising from the ashes→
Australian astronomers have long been contributing to our understanding of a strange cosmological phenomenon—the Universe’s missing matter.
In the early 1970s, Ken Freeman of the Australian National University (ANU) determined that spiral galaxies must contain more matter than we can see. He postulated that dark matter—an invisible material first proposed 40 years earlier—must make up at least half the mass of these galaxies. Now, patches of dark matter are thought to be scattered across the Universe, playing a major role in holding galaxies and groups of galaxies together. Continue reading Spinning galaxies reveal missing matter→
Some of the biochemical tricks the malaria parasite uses to become resistant have been unravelled thanks to a series of discoveries by Dr Rowena Martin and her colleagues at the Australian National University.
She is using those insights to give a new lease of life to chloroquine, the wonder drug against malaria first discovered in the 1950s.
For more than half a century chloroquine saved hundreds of millions of lives, but now chloroquine-resistant malaria strains have become common in developing countries.
Rowena is working to understand what happened. The single-celled malaria parasite enters our bodies when we are bitten by an infected mosquito.
It eventually invades and plunders our red blood cells, consuming the haemoglobin contained within.
The digestion of haemoglobin, which takes place in the parasite’s stomach compartment, releases the iron-containing, nonprotein component, haem.
Free haem is toxic to the parasite, which responds by converting it to a harmless crystal. Chloroquine works by blocking the formation of these crystals.
Ten years ago researchers discovered that just a few small changes in a protein PfCRT were enough to give the parasite resistance to chloroquine. But they did not know what the changes did.
Rowena developed a system to study PfCRT in frog eggs—allowing her to examine it in isolation and in detail.
“We found that it moves chloroquine out of the parasite’s stomach compartment so that the drug can’t accumulate at its site of action.” For her achievements to date, in 2010 Rowena won a $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship.
Photo: Rowena Martin, the Australian National University, Canberra/The University of Melbourne. Credit: L’oréal Australia/SDP media.
The Australian National University, Canberra/The University of Melbourne
In the 1950s it seemed as if medical science was winning the fight against malaria with the help of the ‘wonder drug’ chloroquine. Over the past half century the drug has saved hundreds of millions of lives.
But now the parasite that causes malaria has fought back. Chloroquine-resistant malaria has become common in developing countries. Rowena Martin is working to understand what happened, and to develop new ways of treating malaria. Continue reading Fighting back against malaria→
Every new technology brings opportunities and threats. Nanotechnology is no exception. It has the potential to create new materials that will dramatically improve drug delivery, medical diagnostics, clean and efficient energy, computing and more. But nanoparticles could also have significant health and environmental impacts.
University of Queensland / University of Copenhagen
In 1998 astronomers made an astonishing discovery-the expansion of the Universe is not happening at a steady rate, nor is it slowing down toward eventual collapse. Instead, it is accelerating. The discovery required a complete rethink of the standard model used to explain how the Universe works.
“Now we know that stars, planets, galaxies and all that we can see make up just four per cent of the Universe,” says Tamara Davis, a University of Queensland astrophysicist.
“About 23 per cent is dark matter. The balance is thought to be dark energy, which we know very little about.”