An international team of astronomers started an ambitious project in 2001 to measure the distances to more than one hundred thousand galaxies – and in the process, map a sizable volume of our nearby universe. Measuring the masses and motions of the galaxies was also part of the plan: all the ingredients that shape the content of the Universe in which we live. And so began the 6dF Galaxy Survey (6dFGS). Over the next 6 years, they mapped nearly the entire southern sky. Observing over one hundred thousand galaxies was a massive task.
The 6dF name is a reference to the Six-degree Field instrument, a nifty device that uses optical fibres and robotic positioning technology. It increases the observational power of the Anglo-Australian Observatory’s UK Schmidt Telescope to more than 100 times its original capability. Dozens of tiny fingertip-sized glass prisms let the telescope see up to 150 stars or galaxies at the same time – making 6dF the ultimate machine for mapping the nearby universe.
The end result is a new appreciation for the way galaxies cluster and move in our local universe, and how they have come to be that way. The data, maps, and results are now available to other researchers and the public.
Visualisation by Paul Bourke, with audio by Peter Morse and Glen Rogers.
Category: Astronomy, Cosmology
Running time: 2.5 mins
Released in: 2006
Suitable for: KS4, KS5, Adults