INNOVATION

The Night Sky Would Be More Stunning If We Could See Radio Waves

Just because we can't see it doesn't mean it's not there.

27/10/2016 12:33 PM AEDT | Updated 27/10/2016 5:01 PM AEDT
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Human eyes are pretty darn impressive, but there's a lot we can't see.

When we gaze at the night sky, we are looking at light that's travelled from distant galaxies for billions of years to be nothing more than a pinprick star.

Yet as well as the stars and planets, there's also an incredible display of light that's too weak to be seen -- we call it radio waves.

For the first time, an Australian telescope has painstakingly recreated the night sky showing radio waves, and they call it GLEAM.

Gleam survey stands for GaLactic and Extragalactic All-sky Murchison Widefield Array -- so it's not the most intuitive acronym, but everything else about the project is phenomenal.

Have a play around our galaxy.

Curtin University doctor Natasha Hurley-Walker said GLEAM was helping us see the universe as it really was.

"The human eye sees by comparing brightness in three different primary colours -- red, green and blue," Hurley-Walker said.

"GLEAM does rather better than that, viewing the sky in 20 primary colours.

"That's much better than we humans can manage, and it even beats the very best in the animal kingdom, the mantis shrimp, which can see 12 different primary colours."

Natasha Hurley-Walker / GLEAM
Imagine looking at the night sky and seeing this.

Researchers are now using GLEAM to find out what happens when clusters of galaxies collide, but director Randall Wayth saidothers may find an entirely different use for GLEAM.

"The area surveyed is enormous," Wayth said.

"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."

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