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Australia to launch new research tool to explore milky way origins

Xinhua, April 16, 2014 Adjust font size:

The Australian government will launch a new 13 million AU dollars (12.2 million U.S. dollars) instrument which help astronomers to explore the origins of the Milky Way at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) at Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane announced Wednesday.

According to his statement, the instrument, known as "HERMES", can capture and analyse light from up to 400 stars or galaxies at the same time.

HERMES has been developed over five years by scientists and engineers at the AAO, and will be used by scientists from all over the world. "The AAO's Anglo-Australian Telescope is world-renowned for its record of discovery and this new instrument, HERMES, will ensure it continues to lead the way,"Macfarlane said Wednesday.

According to his statement, using HERMES, astronomers will be able to analyse light from more than a million stars in our galaxy, helping them map the age and movements of the stars and unravel how the Milky Way formed.

Light is fed into HERMES along optical fibres, which are positioned in the telescope by world-leading robotic technology developed by the AAO. HERMES then spreads out the colours of the light into spectra that tell us about the motion and chemical composition of the stars in our Milky Way, through a new project known as the "Galactic Archaeology with HERMES", or GALAH, survey.

The GALAH survey is a multinational project involving 70 astronomers from 17 institutions in eight countries, led by Professor Ken Freeman from the Australian National University, Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn from the University of Sydney and Dr Gayandhi De Silva from the AAO.

Macfarlane confirmed that the Australian government recognises the important role science plays in Australia's community. "This landmark astronomical survey is a prime example of the world-leading collaborations made possible by Australian science and innovation,"he said. "Our participation in world-class research like this, and the international collaboration on the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope, has enormous potential to build skills across many fields of technology that will create opportunities for Australian industry, including in the emerging areas of big data and high performance computing,"Macfarlane added.

In addition, the Australian government contributed almost 8 million AU dollars (7.5 million U.S. dollars) from the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and the Education Investment Fund to the development of the High Efficiency and Resolution Multi-Element Spectrograph (HERMES). And the project has been funded through Astronomy Australia Ltd, which coordinates national research infrastructure investments for the astronomy community.

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