How do astronomers explore the Universe?Astrophysicists use extremely sensitive telescopes and instruments to collect the light emitted by stars, gas and...

The Story of Light: Surveying the Cosmos


500 Harris St
2007 NSW

Powerhouse Museum
Image for Vivid Sydney 2017: The Story of Light

Event Details

How do astronomers explore the Universe?

Astrophysicists use extremely sensitive telescopes and instruments to collect the light emitted by stars, gas and galaxies. The analysis of these data will provide the information needed to unlock the mysteries of the Cosmos.

However this is not an easy task. Over the last two decades large international collaborations have been formed with the aim to map the skies, catalogue celestial objects, extract their properties and perform statistical analyses. These large astronomical surveys are now providing major advances in our understanding of the Cosmos at all scales, from searching for planets around other stars to detecting gravitational waves.

Australia is at the forefront of these collaborations thanks to the unique instruments at the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) and the development of radio-interferometers as the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP).

In this event, five professional astrophysicists will discuss how astronomers map the Cosmos using the big data collected with optical and radio telescopes by large astronomical surveys. Hear about the exciting challenges in detecting planets around other stars, learn about how these studies allow us to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies, including our Milky Way, how we study dark matter and dark energy and, in summary, how astronomers search the skies to understand our position in the Cosmos. The panel will happily answer any questions about the Universe, so bring yours along.


  • Dr. Simon O’Toole (Australian Astronomical Observatory): Surveying stars and exoplanets.
  • Dr. Ángel R. López-Sánchez (Australian Astronomical Observatory & Macquarie University): Surveying the galaxies.
  • A/Prof. Tara Murphy (University of Sydney / CAASTRO): Surveying the invisible Universe.
  • Dr. Katie Mack (University of Melbourne): Surveying the deep Universe.


  • A/Prof. Alan R. Duffy (Swinburne University)

This event is presented by the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO).

Access and Inclusion

  • Wheelchair accessible - Access to the venue is suitable for wheelchairs (toilets, ramps/lifts etc.) and designated wheelchair spaces are available.
  • Companion card - The Companion Card is for people with a significant permanent disability, who always need a companion to provide attendant care type support in order to participate at most available community venues and activities.