ANU astronomers create best map of the southern sky

December 13, 2017, Australian National University

Astronomers at ANU have created the most comprehensive map of the southern sky that can be viewed online by anyone around the world.

The map includes about 70,000 individual images, capturing nearly 300 million stars and galaxies.

Lead researcher Dr Christian Wolf from ANU said the map was created using SkyMapper, a 1.3-metre telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory that is creating a full record of the southern sky for astronomers internationally.

"The map of the southern sky we've released to the world today is the best ever created, but this is only the beginning of a five-year program to capture it in all its splendour," said Dr Wolf from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

"The final map will show stars and galaxies that are up to 50 times fainter than the limits of this map."

SkyMapper's camera has nearly 270 megapixels and the faintest objects visible in the final map will be over one million times fainter than those visible to the naked human eye on a dark night.

The map of the southern sky is available through an online portal at skymapper.anu.edu.au/sky-viewer/ . The search bar can help viewers find well known objects in the southern sky with astronomical coordinates or common names, such as Eta Carinae or NGC 253 (also known as the Sculptor Galaxy).

In 2014, ANU astronomers used early data taken with SkyMapper to discover the oldest known star in the Universe that formed shortly after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.

Co-researcher Dr Christopher Onken said the SkyMapper provided a treasure map for astronomers to find many new interesting objects in the because of the range of colour bands available in images.

"SkyMapper's special filters probe light across a range of colours beyond what the can see, reaching into the near-ultraviolet and the near-infrared," said Dr Onken from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

"This abundant colour information is crucially important to search for astronomical 'needles in the haystack' among the vast number of stars in this map."

ANU developed the map with support from the Strasbourg Astronomical Data Centre (CDS) in France, the Australian Research Council, Australian Astronomy Limited and the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) at ANU.

Explore further: Citizen search for new planet in solar system

Related Stories

Four unknown objects being investigated in Planet 9 search

March 31, 2017

Astronomers from The Australian National University (ANU) are investigating four unknown objects that could be candidates for a new planet in our Solar System, following the launch of their planetary search on the BBC's Stargazing ...

New telescope to map our sky for the first time

September 14, 2004

A new hi-tech telescope called the SkyMapper is to be built by ANU in order to produce the first comprehensive digital map of the Southern sky. The fully automated $11 million telescope will map the sky faster than any other ...

Earth hour lets city dwellers see stars: Astronomers

March 25, 2008

Astronomers from The Australian National University are urging city dwellers to use Earth Hour to look to the stars, as the great ‘switch-off’ will help reduce the light pollution that otherwise obstructs views of space ...

Recommended for you

Unconfirmed near-Earth objects

June 22, 2018

Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are small solar system bodies whose orbits sometimes bring them close to the Earth, potentially threatening a collision. NEOs are tracers of the composition, dynamics and environmental conditions ...

HESS J1943+213 is an extreme blazar, study finds

June 21, 2018

An international group of astronomers have carried out multi-wavelength observations of HESS J1943+213 and found evidence supporting the hypothesis that this gamma-ray source is an extreme blazar. The finding is reported ...

'Red nuggets' are galactic gold for astronomers

June 21, 2018

About a decade ago, astronomers discovered a population of small, but massive galaxies called "red nuggets." A new study using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory indicates that black holes have squelched star formation in these ...

The Rosetta stone of active galactic nuclei deciphered

June 21, 2018

A galaxy with at least one active supermassive black hole – named OJ 287 – has caused many irritations and questions in the past. The emitted radiation of this object spans a wide range – from the radio up to the highest ...

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.