New Galaxies: Hopes To Find 700,000 In 2013

New Galaxies: Hopes To Find 700,000 In 2013

Scientists are hoping the huge radio telescope facility in Western Australia officially opened earlier this year will help them uncover 700,000 new galaxies in 2013.

Two surveys named Wallaby and Dingo will scour vast regions of space to help provide new clues about galaxy evolution.

The £65m Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (Askap) consists of 36 identical 12 metre-wide dishes that work together as a single antenna.

Located in a remote desert region, 196 miles from the port of Geraldton, Askap will also help astronomers investigate one of the greatest mysteries of the universe: dark energy.

This is the anti-gravity force which appears to be causing galaxies to fly apart at an accelerating rate.

Although no one is sure what dark energy is, it accounts for 73% of all the mass-energy in the universe.

Scientists were able to predict Askap's capabilities by combining its specifications with computer simulations.

Dr Alan Duffy, a member of the Askap team from the University of Western Australia, said: "Askap is a highly capable telescope.

"Its surveys will find more galaxies, further away and be able to study them in more detail than any other radio telescope in the world.

"We predict that Wallaby will find an amazing 600,000 new galaxies and Dingo 100,000, spread over trillions of cubic light years of space."

The telescope will examine galactic hydrogen gas - the fuel that forms stars - to see how galaxies have changed in the last four billion years.

Askap is itself a curtain raiser for an even more ambitious project, the Square Kilometre Array (Ska).

Speaking at the official opening, chief scientist Brian Boyle said the Australian telescope will eventually be linked to similar facilities in South Africa and New Zealand, joining 3,000 dishes.

Due to begin operating in 2019, it will be 50 times more powerful than current radio telescopes and will explore exploding stars, black holes, dark energy and traces of the universe's origins some 14 billion years ago.

He said the Askap telescope would see more than 350 researchers from over 130 institutions undertaking 10 survey science projects.