Article originally written by Ángel R. López-Sánchez for the “AAO Observer” 132, August 2017.
Following the success of our sold-out Event “The Story of Light – The Astronomer’s Perspective” for ViVID Sydney Ideas 2015, and “The Story of Light – Deciphering the data encoded on the cosmic light” (see photos and the video of this event), the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) continued its collaboration with ViVID Sydney 2017 organizing “The Story of Light – Surveying the Cosmos”.
This successful science communication event was held at the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney) on Sunday 4th June 2017. Having an audience of 300 people, it was sold out more than two weeks before the event.
“The Story of Light – Surveying the Cosmos” was connected to the 2017 Southern Cross Astrophysics Conference: Surveying the Cosmos, the Science from massively multiplexed surveys, that was held in Luna Park, Sydney, between 5th and 9th June 2017.
In this event, five professional astrophysicists discussed how astronomers map the Cosmos using the big data collected with optical and radio telescopes by large astronomical surveys.
How do astronomers explore the Universe? Astrophysicists use extremely sensitive telescopes and instruments to collect the light emitted by stars, gas and galaxies. The analysis of this data provides the information needed to unlock the mysteries of the Cosmos.
However, this is not an easy task. Over the last two decades large international collaborations have been formed with the aim to map the skies, catalogue celestial objects, extract their properties and perform statistical analyses. These large astronomical surveys are now providing major advances in our understanding of the Cosmos at all scales, from searching for planets around other stars to detecting gravitational waves.
Australia is at the forefront of these collaborations thanks to the unique instruments at the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) and the development of radio-interferometers as the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP).
The panel members were Dr. Simon O’Toole (Australian Astronomical Observatory), who talked about surveying stars and exoplanets, Dr. Ángel R. López-Sánchez (Australian Astronomical Observatory / Macquarie University), who discussed how we surveying the galaxies, A/Prof. Tara Murphy (University of Sydney / CAASTRO), who invited us to surveying the invisible Universe, and Dr. Katie Mack (University of Melbourne), who talked about surveying the deep Universe. The event was hosted by famous astrophysicist and science communicator A/Prof. Alan R. Duffy (Swinburne University).
After short (15 minutes) talks, the panel answered questions about the Universe and challenging Physics questions as the nature of the dark matter and the dark energy. They also received some more philosophical questions that engaged the audience.