New ARC Centre of Excellence to unlock secrets of early universe using cutting-edge 3D technology

Professor Lisa Kewley, ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics who is leading CAASTRO 3D (screenshot from video on ANU YouTube channel)

A new Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence was launched on July 12 to answer fundamental questions in astrophysics, including the formation of matter in the universe, using cutting-edge 3D technology.

The new ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (CAASTRO 3D) is based at the Australian National University. It is receiving funding of AU$30.3 million over seven years through the ARC Centres of Excellence scheme. The ARC Centres of Excellence scheme fosters significant collaborations between universities, publicly funded research organisations, other research bodies, governments and businesses in Australia and overseas, in order to support outstanding research.

The new centre will use new 3-D technology to help unlock the secrets of the early universe and the development of elements. It will investigate how the universe formed its first matter in the dark moments after the Big Bang, how the first stars and galaxies formed and evolved into galaxies like our Milky Way, and how the stars created the chemical elements in the Universe.

Professor Lisa Kewley from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics who is leading the centre explains in a video, “With 3D technology, we can obtain a data cube of a galaxy which means that for every pixel across the galaxy, we can obtain a spectrum that tells us where the oxygen is, where the carbon is, where the nitrogen is in the galaxy. It also tells us where the matter is and how the galaxy is rotating, which tells us where the dark matter is. We are lookking to discover the origin of the basic elements, the carbon, the oxygen and the nitrogen, that are fundamental to life and to do that we need Australia's 3D technology. We are combining optical and radio to understand how these elements formed and evolved across 13 billion years of cosmic time.”

The University will also be involved in seven other ARC Centres of Excellence led by other institutions.

The Centre is expected to propel Australia to the forefront of astronomical research, to develop and use high-tech instruments that will be crucial for the next generation of giant optical and radio telescopes, such as the Giant Magellan Telescope and Square Kilometre Array.

CAASTRO 3D will involve researchers at institutions across Australia and overseas, including astronomers, astrophysicists, engineers and computer scientists. The Centre will also nurture young scientific leaders and encourage high-school students interested in STEM sciences through education and outreach programs. Researchers based at The Australian National University will work collaboratively with The University of Melbourne; The University of Sydney; Swinburne University of Technology; The University of Western Australia; and Curtin University. The University will also partner with the Australian Astronomical Observatory; Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; California Institute of Technology, USA; University of Oxford, UK; University of Toronto, Canada; University of Washington, Seattle; Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy; National Computational Infrastructure; Chinese Academy of Sciences; and Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies.

In addition to answering fundamental questions in astrophysics, the centre will be engaged in delivering technology transfer to other disciplines and generating an innovation culture, bringing together engineers with astronomers, astrophysicists, engineers and data scientists.

The centre will also nurture young scientific leaders and encourage high-school students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines through education and outreach programs.

View the press releases from ARC and ANU here and here respectively.

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