TAIPAN gives astronomers a bigger bite at the universe
1 February 2018
A new world-class instrument launched today by the Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation Zed Seselja will make surveying our stars faster and more efficient.
Senator Seselja visited the Siding Spring Observatory in Coonabarabran, New South Wales, to launch the TAIPAN—a spectroscopic instrument designed by the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) and purpose built for the UK Schmidt Telescope (UKST).
“Australia has always punched above its weight in astronomy. The TAIPAN is a fantastic example of our world-renowned capability in building and using specialised fibre-optic spectroscopic technologies,” Senator Seselja said.
“I’ve seen the Starbugs technology first hand at the AAO in North Ryde and now on the telescope itself. It’s an extraordinary innovation with tremendous opportunities for researchers and discovery here and overseas.”
Starbugs are mini-robots that rapidly and accurately align the optical fibres of a telescope to target stars and galaxies. This world-first technology makes astronomical surveys faster and more efficient by using hundreds of Starbugs to cut down a telescope’s configuration time from an hour to two or three minutes.
The TAIPAN will now provide the most complete survey of southern hemisphere stars and galaxies ever undertaken. It will measure up to two million galaxies and two million stars to make new discoveries about dark energy, dark matter and how galaxies and stars form and evolve.
The TAIPAN will serve as a prototype for similar positioning systems being developed in Australia for other international telescopes, like the Giant Magellan Telescope under construction at Las Campanas Observatory in the Chilean Andes.
“Combined with other surveys planned by the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), this will give us the most comprehensive picture ever developed of the nearby universe. This is another extraordinary achievement from our astronomers, engineers and specialists. The TAIPAN is really setting up a new gold-standard for instruments,” Senator Seselja said.
Noting the Government’s $6.37 million investment over four years, for the TAIPAN instrument and the refurbishment of the UKST, Senator Seselja emphasised that a strong domestic infrastructure would continue to provide Australian astronomers with the best of all worlds.
“Australians are unquestionably global leaders in the ‘big science’ of astronomy and the universe. Last year we became strategic partners of the European Southern Observatory, our domestic institutions are founding partners of the Giant Magellan Telescope, and we are integral to the management of the Square Kilometre Array project,” Senator Seselja said.
“This shared responsibility will ensure we remain at the forefront of the conversation, both in the research we produce and the instruments we design.”
Media contact: Minister Seselja's office 02 6247 6444