A world-leading Australian CSIRO radio telescope has conducted its first survey of the southern sky in great detail and at record speed, thus creating a new atlas of the Universe and covering over 80% of the sky.

ASKAP, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope, was developed and is now operated by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. In just 300 hours, it mapped nearly three billion galaxies.

ASKAP creates a new atlas of the universe | Image: CSIRO
ASKAP creates a new atlas of the universe | Image: CSIRO

The Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey resembles a Google map, where star-like points represent millions of distant galaxies, and we have never seen a million of them.

“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,” said Dr. Larry Marshall, CSIRO Chief Executive.

The main advancement of the telescope is its wide field of view that is generated with the help of 36 new CSIRO-designed receivers. That is what helps ASKAP to take detailed panoramic pictures of the sky. The system is located in the southern hemisphere in Western Australia. It is spread across a 6 km area at the CSIRO's Murchison observatory.

This result proves that scientists can conduct all-sky surveys in a matter of weeks and not years, opening new opportunities for discovery, such as learning about star formation and the evolution of supermassive black holes.

The news data will allow scientists to perform statistical analyses of large galaxy populations.