Scientists drilling the universe to uncover its history

March 21, 2014 by Denise Cahill, Science Network WA
A mosaic showing some of the 250 thousand galaxies detected by the Galaxy and Mass Assembly survey using some of the world's best ground-based telescopes. Credit: Simon Driver - GAMA / ICRAR / UWA

WA scientists are using telescopes to drill holes in the universe to unlock how galaxies have evolved.

Much like geologists drill the ice of Antarctica to find out about the climate or species of animals living thousands of years ago, astronomers from the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project are using telescopes to build a picture of two-and-a-half billion years ago.

Principal investigator and ICRAR's Simon Driver says the GAMA project, established in 2007, uses five ground-based telescopes around the world including the Anglo-Australian Telescope in NSW all aimed at 300,000 galaxies in a section of the .

He says the project is a break away from traditional astronomy research in which scientists would work in small groups to examine specific questions.

"Ours is the only survey project that goes across lots of telescopes," Prof Driver says.

"It is the only survey that covers the whole electromagnetic spectrum.

"That is important because galaxies are very complicated, they have lots of things inside them like stars and dust and black holes.

"All of these things give out radiation at different wave lengths.

"So if you only look at one wave length you only see one part of the story."

He says the average distance of our galaxies have a redshift of about .25 and it takes about 2.5 billion years for the light to get from those galaxies to us.

"So in effect we are seeing those galaxies as they were two-and-a-half billion years ago," he says.

"Because we have galaxies right from the front of our nose right out to redshift .25 we can start to look at galaxies that are half-a-billion away, [and] galaxies that are one billion light years away and can start to look at and compare and look for differences.

"Ones that are further away are a little bit smaller and are forming stars more vigorously, so they are a little bit bluer and they have slightly fewer metals."

He says ultimately researchers want to extend the project out to 13 billion light years.

Importantly the is building a database of information on the galaxies which Prof Driver says could open up many doors to scientists because they could make a serendipitous discovery and find a new type of galaxy or find out the physics we use today cannot explain a galaxy.

Explore further: Looking back to the cradle of our universe

Related Stories

Looking back to the cradle of our universe

February 10, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes have spotted what might be one of the most distant galaxies known, harkening back to a time when our universe was only about 650 million years old (our universe is ...

Hubble and Galaxy Zoo find bars and baby galaxies don't mix

January 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —Harnessing the power of both the Hubble Space Telescope and the citizen science project Galaxy Zoo, scientists from the University of Portsmouth have found that bar-shaped features in spiral galaxies accelerate ...

Granny galaxies discovered in the early universe

March 11, 2014

(Phys.org) —An international team of astronomers have discovered the most distant examples of galaxies that were already mature and massive – not just young, star-forming galaxies in the nursery-room of the early Universe ...

Fat or flat: Getting galaxies into shape

February 27, 2014

Australian astronomers have discovered what makes some spiral galaxies fat and bulging while others are flat discs—and it's all about how fast they spin.

Recommended for you

Solar-powered rover approaching 5,000th Martian dawn

February 16, 2018

The sun will rise on NASA's solar-powered Mars rover Opportunity for the 5,000th time on Saturday, sending rays of energy to a golf-cart-size robotic field geologist that continues to provide revelations about the Red Planet.

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

February 15, 2018

Three billion miles away on the farthest known major planet in our solar system, an ominous, dark storm - once big enough to stretch across the Atlantic Ocean from Boston to Portugal - is shrinking out of existence as seen ...

Kepler scientists discover almost 100 new exoplanets

February 15, 2018

Based on data from NASA's K2 mission, an international team of scientists has confirmed nearly 100 new exoplanets. This brings the total number of new exoplanets found with the K2 mission up to almost 300.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.