Astronomy and Astrophysics


See further details of our science program and data intensive astronomy program.

Square Kilometre Array

The principle scientific goals of the SKA are to study the evolution of galaxies, the structure and composition of the Universe, the evolution of magnetism, the formation of young stellar and planetary systems, and the verification of Einstein's theory of Gravity. Our group is working in research topics which cover many of these areas.


The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) will be the premier Australian facility for HI surveys from 2012. We are undertaking preparatory work for the design and implementation of flagship surveys. This work is anticipated to yield the deepest observations of HI gas in emission, and detect gas in galaxies at a time when the universe was half its present age.

Gaseous Evolution in Galaxies

Hydrogen gas is a crucial ingredient in galaxy formation and evolution, being the most abundant element in the early universe and a fuel from which to form stars. We perform large-scale studies of HI-rich galaxies using data from the world's premier radio facilities, quantifying their cosmological properties in the nearby and more distant universe.

Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA)

The GAMA project will combine the data flows from three space missions (GALEX, WISE, HERSCHEL), five ground-based telescopes (AAT, SDSS, UKIRT, VST, VISTA), and two radio interferometers (GMRT, ASKAP). The objective is to construct a database of over 300,000 galaxies with measurements of the stellar, gaseous, dust, baryonic ,and dynamical masses for each of these systems. The project is led from ICRAR/UWA and at its core is a major allocation of time on the Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Springs Observatory in NSW. The focus over the next few years will be on studying the structural properties of galaxies on 1kpc to 1Mpc scales and the first detailed study of the multi-wavelength properties of galaxies over such a broad wavelength baseline.

Star Clusters

As the nurseries of most stars, star clusters are fundamental components of the evolutionary process in galaxies. Using the unprecedented resolution of the Hubble space telescope it is possible to examine nearby galaxies on a star-by-star basis. We use this data to trace the evolution of stars from their birthplace in clusters to the star field background.

Radio Astronomy Techniques

Interferometric observations with ATCA, VLBI and Space-VLBI; single-dish, multibeam and focal plane array pbservations; pulsar timing of glitches and other transients; new calibration methods for polarisation and delays; digital recording systems; low-frequency observations and surveys.

Methanol Masers and Star Formation

Regions which are in the process of forming massive stars are obscured by dust and therefore difficult to study at optical wavelengths. However, methanol masers emit at radio wavelengths and are very good tracers of the early stages of star formation. The Doppler shift of the methanol line allows us to deduce the radial motions of the masers. Together with high-resolution VLBI, we can therefore map the star-forming regions in 3D. Finally, with polarisation observations, we can map the magnetic fields which are an important factor in mediating the gravitational collapse of massive protostars.


Pulsars are rotating neutron stars - they have stellar masses and rotate at high speed (many times per second). As they have high angular momentum, they are some of the most stable time standards in the universe. Nevertheless, when they are young (a few thousand years old) they have not 'set' internally, and are observed to change frequency in very short timescales.

Supernova 1987A

SN1987A was the brightest supernova for 400 yrs and is still being continually studied at X-ray, optical, infrared and radio wavelengths. It provides an excellent laboratory in which to study the evolution of a supernova into a supernova remnant and the subsequent production of cosmic rays - the most energetic particles in the Universe. SN1987A is the only extra-solar astronomical object to have been detected by neutrinos. We are imaging SN1987A with the ATCA and other telescopes, and are modelling the interaction of the blast wave with the circumstellar medium created by its progenitor.

The SKA and Gravity Waves

In collaboration with the Gravity Wave group, we are interested in: (a) the fast detection and accurate localization of gravitational wave (GW) sources using ground-based detectors; (b) detection and mapping of the space-time curvature of massive black holes using space-based GW detectors; (c) GPU-accelerated data processing for GW detectors and for the SKA and its pathfinders.

Science Archives

The principle means by which astronomers will interact with data from future radio and optical instrumentation is via the science archive. For the SKA, the archive requirements are vast and the corresponding technology required is the subject of research by our group. Initial projects will involve ASKAP and MWA.