Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SkyMapper goes online

As reported, Australia's newest telescope - SkyMapper - is now online and will spend the next five years conducting the first full digital survey of the southern skies. The $13 million telescope is located at Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran in New South Wales but will be operated by Australian National University (ANU) researchers at Canberra's Mount Stromlo Observatory.

ANU project leader Professor Brian Schmidt says the state-of-the-art technology will lead to countless discoveries, offering insight into the creation of galaxies. "SkyMapper is a new breed of telescope," he said.

"It's going to allow us to catalogue every single object in the southern sky - planets, galaxies, stars - to a level more than a million times fainter than what you can see with the eye."

The SkyMapper is 1.35 metres in diameter but it is equipped with a 268 megapixel camera. It is a fully automated telescope able to assess the weather and decide if it is suitable to collect data. SkyMapper is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere.


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