Mapping the Sky: from ancient times to the modern Australian SkyMapper Telescope

Mankind has mapped the skies throughout its history, to maintain calendars and support navigation, and to gather insights into the heavenly order. Accurate measurements of planet positions have led to the discovery of the law of gravity; even modern physics has thrived on comprehensive and accurate mapping of the cosmos, by which phenomena as elusive as dark matter and dark energy were discovered. 

In this public lecture, ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt and Dr Christian Wolf will report on the Australian SkyMapper project, which creates the currently most detailed map of the Southern sky. SkyMapper started collecting data in 2014 and will finish in 2020. At that point it will have mapped and described billions of stars and galaxies in the Universe. Images and catalogues are released to the public and can be accessed with web browsers or dedicated Virtual Observatory software tools. They will highlight some of the scientific projects that eagerly await this resource.

Dr Christian Wolf is the principal investigator of the SkyMapper Telescope and Member of the Executive for the ARC Centre of Excellence in All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO). He leads the most recent optical survey of the Australian night sky, and his science interests cover the evolution of galaxies and supermassive black holes over cosmic time. Christian spent part of his childhood in Sardinia, where he found his love for the night sky. He studied in the US and Germany and in 1999 obtained his PhD from the Max-Planck Institute of Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. After a decade at Oxford University, he joined the ANU in 2013.

Professor Brian P. Schmidt is Vice-Chancellor and President of ANU and winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. Professor Schmidt received undergraduate degrees in Astronomy and Physics from the University of Arizona in 1989, and completed his Astronomy Master's degree (1992) and PhD (1993) from Harvard University. Under his leadership, in 1998, the High-Z Supernova Search team made the startling discovery that the expansion rate of the Universe is accelerating. Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, The United States Academy of Science, and the Royal Society, he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2013.