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Reach for the stars: SKA telescope maps the southern sky

You don’t have to venture far out of Geraldton’s city centre to escape the light pollution and find an almost unhindered view of the night sky. The Mid West is the perfect place for world-class scientists to map out the stars.

A huge CSIRO telescope has just mapped out the southern sky in impeccable detail, reaching about three million galaxies in just 300 hours.

The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder is in the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, 315km north-east of Geraldton in Wajarri Country.

Its most recent endeavour — the Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey — has created something CSIRO describes as a Google Maps but for outer space, unlocking the universe’s deepest secrets.

CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said: “ASKAP is applying the very latest in science and technology to age-old questions about the mysteries of the universe and equipping astronomers around the world with new breakthroughs to solve their challenges.” Dr Marshall said the project created 13.5 exabytes of raw data — more than Australia’s entire internet system, generated at a faster speed.

Through the Mid West, Australia is leading the world in its research of space, with Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews saying the ASKAP had put our scientists in the “driver’s seat” of otherworldly exploration.

The images and catalogues from the survey will be made publicly available through the CSIRO Data Access Portal and hosted at Pawsey, and initial findings were yesterday published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

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