The world’s most advanced electron microscope is in a bid to understand the cosmos from the ground up
By using a pair of cutting-edge spectroscopic instruments, an Australian startup has been able to image the entire electromagnetic spectrum of the universe for the first time.
The $50m (£32m) project is based at the University of Queensland’s Geomagnetics Laboratory and is led by Professor Greg Dyer.
The company is called ENSEMBLE and is an ambitious project that will see the team of Australian scientists using high-resolution spectroscopy to explore how the universe is made up.
“There is so much more to understand about the universe than what we have been able so far,” Dr Dyer said.
“We’re trying to create a new tool for doing this.”
Electromagnetic waves are the only thing that can be detected in the visible light spectrum of light emitted by objects such as stars and galaxies.
The light that falls on the earth’s surface is an electromagnetic wave, but is invisible to the human eye, so the team is looking to image how this energy is being scattered across the universe.
“The electromagnetic spectrum is an incredibly rich place to look for things,” Dr Dan Moulton, a co-founder of ENSAME, said.
In particular, ENSEMSBL will look at how the electromagnetic radiation is scattered by the cosmic microwave background (CMB), which is a radiation of the Big Bang that is still a mystery to scientists.
“It’s like having the whole spectrum of a TV show and all the images coming out of it,” Dr Moulson said.
The team will also be looking at the behaviour of a particular type of particle known as the neutrino.
Neutrinos are the “dark energy” of the Universe, and can be observed with telescopes in the UK and Australia.
Neuts are thought to be produced by dark matter particles and can make up about 10% of the total mass of the cosmos.
“Neutrons and other heavy elements are very small and their existence is so mysterious that it’s very difficult to study them,” Dr Jana Oster, a research fellow at the Queensland University of Technology and lead author of a paper on the research published in Nature Physics, said in a statement.
“However, the neutrons are so faint that it is possible to detect them from space.”
The team hopes to use the imaging to understand how these neutrinos interact with matter and how they interact with the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum.
“Our next step will be to map out the entire spectrum of neutrins and understand their behaviour in the whole of the cosmic web,” Dr Oster said.
This is an extremely rich place for our technology to be developed to be able to be used in a large scale, we can use it to study all the objects in the universe and see how they’re made.
“The ENSAMBL team will be using the same technology to study the formation of the Milky Way, which has a huge amount of mass.”
This means we can get a very high resolution, high resolution view of all the material in the galaxy,” Dr Daniel Vahter, an ENSAMSBL team member and co-author, said, according to Nature.”
What’s really interesting about it is that you can go into a black hole and observe everything.
“You can look at the formation process and see that there are a lot of moving parts and the whole thing is a complex system.”
The project is being funded by the Queensland Government through the Department of Science and Innovation and is the latest of a series of big science projects in Queensland that have been announced since the state’s new Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a major science policy in November.
The ECSB will be the first of its kind in Australia.
It will involve a team of 12 scientists working across seven universities to explore topics ranging from the development of new imaging techniques to new physics-based models of the structure and properties of the dark matter in the Universe.