New Interactive app allows you to explore the Universe

November 17, 2016

Have you ever wondered at the vastness and the immense magnificence of the universe? Did you ever feel that you can only view this beauty through a telescope?

A new app brings in a kaleidoscope with radio wave frequencies to expand what we can see of the night sky beyond the visible spectrum.

The app integrates images from the successful two-year survey on the Galactic and Extragalactic All-sky MWA (GLEAM). The MWA (Murchison Widefield Array) is a low-frequency radio telescope and the only SKA, operating in Western Australia. These observations not only form the widest fractional bandwidth but also the largest sky area survey at radio frequencies. It uses images from more than 300,000 galaxies.

gleam_still[Image Source: ICRAR]

According to a paper published recently in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the survey covers 24,402 square degrees over declinations south of +300 and Galactic latitudes outside 100 of Galactic planes excluding some areas like Magellanic clouds, which hover around the South Celestial Pole.

Based on Chromoscope, GLEAMoscope lets you explore Galaxy and the distant Universe in a range of wavelengths from X-rays to down to the GLEAM frequencies of 72-231 MHz. The app avoids the band around 137 MHz, a range contaminated by satellite interference. Cardiff University Astronomy and Astronomy Instrumentation Groups funded the project.

gleam_viisble[Image Source: GLEAMoscope]

Using the app, viewers can expand the level of detail to see the universe. The app is now available on Android phones (Google Play Store), tablet and PC. On the screen, you can see three “radio colors” namely red, green and blue which determines the astrophysics of the object. Red indicates 72-103 MHz, green is 103-134 MHz, and blue is 139-170 MHz.

The view is put across as if you are floating in the space with your head pointing toward the Earth’s North pole and your feet toward the South.

To move around you can touch and drag the survey. Simply swivel your phone around to see the sky, if it has a gyroscope.  For a 3-D representation of GLEAM, you can use Google Cardboard. However, despite the 3-d rendering being really cool, it’s not astronomically accurate.

gleam_xray[Image Source: GLEAMoscope]

“The human eye sees by comparing brightness in three different primary colors – red, green and blue. GLEAM does rather better than that, viewing the sky in 20 primary colors. It even beats the very best in the animal kingdom, the mantis shrimp, which can see 12 different primary colors,” said the lead author Dr. Natasha Hurley-Walker, from Curtin University and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR)

“Large sky surveys like this are extremely valuable to scientists and they’re used across many areas of astrophysics, often in ways the original researchers could never have imagined,” said MWA Director Associate Professor Randall Wayth, from Curtin University and ICRAR.

Watch the video on GLEAM timelapse:

This unique time-lapse movie shows the sky above a tile of the MWA radio telescope. The normal sky view transitions to radio wavelength view. The band across the sky is the Milky Way and the dots beyond are some of the 300,000 galaxies observed by the telescope for the GLEAM survey.


Featured image courtesy of Natasha Hurley-Walker (ICRAR/Curtin) and the GLEAM Team

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