A new study from researchers at Western Sydney University shows how radio astronomy can help our understanding of how galaxies form and evolve – and could change everything about how we study the universe.
The team believes we are on track to uncover “strange new objects” and phenomena never seen before, by harnessing the power of radio astronomy to map the sky and make it accessible online.
The study charts observations of radio waves. Invisible to the naked eye, these include black holes and galaxies. It covers everything from their discovery in 1932, to today’s latest technology charting objects billions of light years away.
Lead author of the study, Western Sydney University’s Professor Ray Norris, says the survey highlights that we are currently in a “surge of discovery” with surveys charting radio waves about to start in Australia, South Africa, India, the United States and the Netherlands.
“This surge will not only revolutionise radio astronomy but allow us to learn far more about how galaxies form and evolve in the universe,” he says.
Foremost among these new projects is EMU (Evolutionary Map of the Universe), which will use CSIRO’s revolutionary ASKAP (Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder) telescope to map out the faintest radio galaxies in the sky.
EMU – led by Professor Ray Norris and consisting of around 300 scientists from 21 countries – is set to raise the number of objects in outer space that emit strong radio waves from 2.5 million to about 70 million.
“Once EMU and the other surveys have finished, the entire radio sky will be mapped and this will transform radio-astronomy,” he says.
“It will mean that the entire radio map of the sky will be downloadable on the internet, so future radio-astronomers can do their astronomy by mining the data on the web. This will firmly place radio astronomy in the toolbox of every astronomer, opening new tracts of unexplored space which could lead to completely unexpected discoveries.”