Australian telescope creates 'Google Maps' of the night sky

A telescope in the Australian outback has discovered over a million new galaxies and helped to create an ‘atlas of the universe’.

Astronomers behind the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) were able to map an astonishing three million galaxies in just 300 hours.

The equivalent work would have taken up to a decade using previous generations of telescope.

Once the initial mapping had taken place, the team, from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), then made an interactive Google Maps-style program of the night sky.

Anyone using the tool can navigate around and learn about distant parts of the observable universe.

‘It’s really a game changer,’ said astronomer David McConnell, who led the CSIRO study of the southern sky at the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory. 

The telescope mapped the southern sky with 903 images – compared with tens of thousands required by other radio telescopes.

‘It is more sensitive than previous surveys that have covered the whole sky like this, so we do see more objects than have been seen in the past,’ McConnell explained.

‘This census of the Universe will be used by astronomers around the world to explore the unknown and study everything from star formation to how galaxies and their super-massive black holes evolve and interact,’ McConnell added.

The ASKAP makes up part of the overall $1 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which is a project to build the largest and most capable radio telescope anywhere in the world.

‘The Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey is like a Google map of the Universe where most of the millions of star-like points on the map are distant galaxies —  about a million of which we’ve never seen before,’ CSIRO said in a statement.

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