How many of the planets scattered across the Universe have the potential to harbour life? An observatory being built in Tasmania is poised to help answer just that question.
Astronomers at the University of Tasmania (UTas) currently use the Mount Canopus Observatory in Hobart to search for Earth-like planets orbiting distant suns—but the growing city is compromising the observatory’s view of space. “Light is driving us away,” says John Greenhill, the Observatory’s director. Continue reading Bringing undiscovered Earths into focus→
Stars forming in clusters from a single galactic dust cloud are not as similar to one another as previously thought, according to an international team of astronomers who analysed ‘starquakes’ from just three months of data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope. And there is at least another four years’ data to come.
“In the past, it was assumed that the only difference [between stars in the same cluster] would be their mass,” says Dennis Stello of the University of Sydney. “But the seismology [data] tells us that might not be correct. There’s probably a spread in age or in composition because the original cloud of gas was not homogeneous.” Continue reading Starquakes reveal family secrets→
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→
Australia’s first observatory was built on the shores of Sydney Harbour by Lieutenant William Dawes of the First Fleet, on the point where the southern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge now stands. Optical astronomy was essential for maritime navigation, and for providing precise location measurements for surveying the new continent.
A new ‘super survey’ is producing the largest database of galaxy measurements, spanning the last five billion years of cosmic history. The International Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project is combining data from ground-and space-based observatories to measure the ‘haloes’ of dark matter that surround galaxies.
“The Cold Dark Matter (CDM) model of cosmology makes predictions about how galaxies cluster and, in many cases, collide and merge,” says Andrew Hopkins, a GAMA team member. “Our measurements of the speeds of galaxies will reveal the distribution of dark matter, and enable us to test the CDM model.”