Aussie team help unlock space mysteries

·1-min read

Australian scientists are set to help build one of the world's most powerful ground-based telescopes, which will be able to peer back into the early universe.

The new technology will produce images three times sharper than NASA's revolutionary Hubble Space Telescope, located 547km above earth.

When complete, the MAVIS instrument will allow astronomers to see further into space and unlock even more mysteries about the universe, stars and galaxies.

It will be fitted to one of the Unit Telescopes at the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile, which has a 8.2 metre wide mirror.

"MAVIS will remove blurring caused by turbulence in Earth's atmosphere and deliver images as sharp as if the telescope were in space," Australian National University astronomer Francois Rigaut said Wednesday.

"With MAVIS we'll be able to peer back into the early universe by observing very faint and distant objects."

This includes exploring how the first stars formed 13 billion years ago, as well as how weather changes on planets and moons in our solar system.

MAVIS is an acronym that stands for Multi-conjugate-adaptive-optics Assisted Visible Imager and Spectrograph.

It will be built over seven years and cost AUD$57 million.

The MAVIS consortium is led by ANU and involves Macquarie University, Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics and France's Laboratoire d'Astrophysique.

ESO and Australia entered a 10-year strategic partnership in 2017.

In return for building MAVIS, the consortium will get guaranteed observing time with the instrument.

"The coming decade represents a very exciting time for Australian astronomy," ANU astronomer Matthew Colless said.

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