Media releases

Spacetime memories, stellar fossils & fast radio bursts: Aussie astronomers awarded

Astronomical Society of Australia honours stargazers at annual conference

Six Australian astronomers will be recognised by the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA), the country’s professional body for the field.

The awards will be presented at the ASA’s Annual Science Meeting, running Monday July 12 to Friday July 16 at hubs in major cities, and online. The conference is hosted by the School of Physics at The University of Melbourne.

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New type of massive explosion explains mystery star

‘Magneto-rotational hypernova’ soon after the Big Bang fuelled high levels of uranium, zinc in ancient stellar oddity

A massive explosion from a previously unknown source – 10 times more energetic than a supernova – could be the answer to a 13-billion-year-old Milky Way mystery.

Astronomers led by David Yong, Gary Da Costa and Chiaki Kobayashi from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) based at the Australian National University (ANU) have potentially discovered the first evidence of the destruction of a collapsed rapidly spinning star – a phenomenon they describe as a “magneto-rotational hypernova”.

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Where does it hurt, Rover?

Adelaide invention revolutionises veterinary x-rays

Your best friend can’t tell you where it hurts but now, thanks to an invention by Adelaide company Micro-X, vets have a better tool to diagnose your pet’s health problems.

The Micro-X Rover, a mobile x-ray machine was first designed for the Australian military as an ultra-mobile battlefield-ready x-ray machine delivering the full spectrum of imaging solutions.

It has now been adapted to be used by vets, using custom software tailored for small animal exams by Micro-X’s US partner Varex Imaging Corporation.

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Bend it like Einstein: Astronomers turn galaxies into magnifiers

New technique helps NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

Astronomers have turned a cluster of galaxies into a gargantuan magnifying lens, using it to study another galaxy, 10.7 billion light years away, in unprecedented detail.

Taking advantage of a phenomenon known as “gravitational lensing”, the team of scientists, led by NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre scientist Dr Soniya Sharma, identified star forming regions in the distant and ancient galaxy.

The research was funded by Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D), and will be of direct benefit to NASA’s next orbiting observer.

Without the use of the massive magnifying effect, the galaxy, dubbed cswa128, would be a tiny blur to even the most powerful telescopes on Earth. With it, the astronomers can see stars being formed just three billion years after the Big Bang.

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Dying Moorabool River needs big drinks of water

Issued on behalf of the People for a Living Moorabool

Farmers, conservationists, and others available for interview + photos and HD overlay

Film premiere on Saturday 26 June in Ballarat

A cleared and desiccated stretch of the east branch of the Moorabool River
Credit: People for A Living Moorabool

“The Moorabool River will continue to deteriorate and die unless we give back some of its water,” says Cameron Steele, coordinator of river protection group, People for A Living Moorabool.

“We’re calling on the Victorian government to give back 20,000 megalitres per year,” he says.

“The Moorabool flows from the Central Highlands near Ballarat through to Geelong – in theory. Sometimes, the Moorabool barely makes it to its junction with the Barwon River.” 

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Milky Way not unusual, astronomers find

Detailed cross-section of another galaxy reveals surprising similarities to our home

The first detailed cross-section of a galaxy broadly similar to the Milky Way, published today, reveals that our galaxy evolved gradually, instead of being the result of a violent mash-up. The finding throws the origin story of our home into doubt.

The galaxy, dubbed UGC 10738, turns out to have distinct ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ discs similar to those of the Milky Way. This suggests, contrary to previous theories, that such structures are not the result of a rare long-ago collision with a smaller galaxy. They appear to be the product of more peaceful change.

And that is a game-changer. It means that our spiral galaxy home isn’t the product of a freak accident. Instead, it is typical.

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Innovation Award for ADF’s new mobile medical X-ray

Using unique carbon nanotube technology, hospital grade X-ray imaging now available for field hospitals and humanitarian missions

Adelaide company Micro-X (ASX: MX1) has won the Land Forces 2021 National Innovation Award for inventing and manufacturing Rover, a lightweight go-anywhere X-ray machine ruggedised and optimised for high intensity use in field hospitals and remote locations.

Military doctors aim to provide combat soldiers who go in harm’s way with no less a standard of medical care than they can expect at home. However, conventional, hospital-grade mobile x-ray machines are heavy (typically 400 to 600kg), power hungry and very hard to move around on uneven surfaces.

So, prior to the Rover’s development, only small-animal veterinary x-rays units were light enough to be deployed by military forces.

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More than 60 years to achieve gender equity?

Modelling shows urgent need to revamp hiring and working conditions for astronomers

It will take until at least 2080 before women make up just one-third of Australia’s professional astronomers, an analysis published today in the journal Nature Astronomy reveals.

“Astronomers have been leaders in gender equity initiatives, but our programs are not working fast enough,” says Professor Lisa Kewley, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D).

Professor Lisa Kewley.
Credit: ASTRO 3D

Kewley is also an ARC Laureate Fellow at the Australian National University’s Research School for Astronomy and Astrophysics. She developed workforce forward modelling that can predict the fraction of women at all levels in astronomy from 2021 to 2060, given different initiatives in hiring or retention. The models show that Australia’s university leadership need to adopt 50:50 or affirmative action hiring and introduce exit surveys and retention initiatives.

“With these initiatives we can reach one-third women in 11 years, growing to 50 per cent in 25,” she said.

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Can we guarantee supply of essential drugs in a global crisis?

Flow chemistry trial will test new way to make drugs locally and fast

Australia may soon be able to produce essential drugs – including anaesthetics and treatments for antibiotic resistant superbugs – rapidly and entirely onshore, ending the need to import them.

A collaboration between Melbourne chemical company Boron Molecular and DMTC Ltd (formerly the Defence Materials Technology Centre) is testing a new system capable of synthesising drugs at scale, quickly and continuously.

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Dr Josh Boyle from Boron Molecular working with a flow reactor

Can a brain scanner fit into an ambulance?

Innovative Adelaide-based manufacturer Micro-X has received funding to develop a game-changing portable brain scanner from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

The scanner will be small enough to be placed in ambulances or Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft and will give more Australians rapid access to treatment in the crucial first “golden hour” after a stroke.

It is expected to revolutionise stroke care particularly for rural and remote Australians who are twice as likely as city stroke survivors to be left with a serious, lifelong disability.

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