A radio telescope in remote Western Australia is building 3-dimensional maps of galaxies. 

A project dubbed WALLABY (The Widefield ASKAP L-band Legacy All-sky Blind surveY) is improving the understanding of nearby galaxies and galactic clusters.

Hundreds of galaxies have been surveyed in Phase 1 of WALLABY, covering 180 square degrees of the observable sky.

Researcher Dr Tobias Westmeier, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D), says the data WALLABY collects will help investigate the Universe at a scale that is not possible with just optical telescopes.

“If our own Milky Way is between us and the galaxy we’re trying to observe, the sheer number of stars and dust makes it incredibly hard to see anything else,” Dr Westmeier says. 

“WALLABY isn’t affected by these limitations. It’s one of the great strengths of radio surveys; they can simply peer through all the stars and dust in our own Milky Way.”

The project can reveal where different galaxies really are in relation to one another, splitting up galaxies that appear clustered together but are actually millions of light years apart.

With this data, astronomers can accurately group galaxies to better understand how they affect each other when clustered together, providing insight on how galaxies form and change over time. 

“Of the over 600 galaxies measured so far, many have not been previously catalogued at any other waveband and are considered new discoveries,” said WALLABY’s Principal Investigator, Professor Lister Staveley-Smith.

“Over a dozen papers have been published so far describing new discoveries from these early observations.”

More details, including 3D animations of a nearby galaxy, are available here.