Media releases

Can you see the stars?

Who has the darkest skies?

Tell us what you can see on the longest night, help us map Australia’s light pollution, and set a world record

Stunning video overlay and photos, spokespeople in all States and Territories

Stargazing at Siding Spring Observatory, near Coonabarabran, NSW.
Credit: Angel Lopez-Sanchez

Scientists are asking all Australians to step outside on the longest night of the year to help them measure light pollution around the country.

“We’re expecting thousands of people to join us on Australia’s longest night, Sunday 21 June, to help researchers create a map of Australia’s darkest skies, and learn about light pollution and its effect on people, animals, and astronomy,” says Marnie Ogg, CEO and founder of the Australasian Dark Sky Alliance.

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Cyclones can damage even distant reefs

Research finds current models underestimate the impact of hurricanes and typhoons on coral reef communities

Full paper and images available. Details below.

The same area of Scott Reef photographed in 2010, and again in 2012 after Cyclone Lua. Credit: James Gilmour/AIMS

Big and strong cyclones can harm coral reefs as far as 1000 kilometres away from their paths, new research shows.

A study led by Dr Marji Puotinen from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) sounds a warning about the way strong cyclone winds build extreme seas that affect coral reefs in Australia and around the world.

Conventional modelling used to predict how a cyclone, hurricane or typhoon might impact corals assumes that wave damage occurs primarily within 100 kilometres of its track.

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Astronomers see ‘cosmic ring of fire’, 11 billion years ago

Unusual galaxy set to prompt rethink on how structures in the Universe form

Full paper, Full video, and images available. Details below.

Astronomers have captured an image of a super-rare type of galaxy – described as a “cosmic ring of fire” – as it existed 11 billion years ago.

The galaxy, which has roughly the mass of the Milky Way, is circular with a hole in the middle, rather like a titanic doughnut. Its discovery, announced in the journal Nature Astronomy, is set to shake up theories about the earliest formation of galactic structures and how they evolve.

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3D-printed system speeds up solar cell testing from hours to minutes

Australian scientists flag dramatic improvement to next-gen perovskite R&D

Full paper and images available. Details below.

A detail from the new 16-channel parallel characterisation system.
Credit: Adam Surmiak, Xiongfeng Lin

Tests on new designs for next-gen solar cells can now be done in hours instead of days thanks to a new system built by scientists at Australia’s Monash University, incorporating 3D-printed key components.

The machine can analyse 16 sample perovskite-based solar cells simultaneously, in parallel, dramatically speeding up the process.

The invention means that the performance and commercial potential of new compounds can be very rapidly evaluated, significantly speeding up the development process.

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Fish faeces reveals which species eat crown-of-thorns

Great Barrier Reef research finds the destructive starfish is eaten more often than thought.

Full paper, video, gifs and still images available. Details below.

Dr Frederieke Kroon looking at a crown-of-thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef. Credit: D.Westcott/CSIRO

Crown-of-thorns starfish are on the menu for many more fish species than previously suspected, an investigation using fish poo and gut goo reveals.

The finding suggests that some fish, including popular eating and aquarium species, might have a role to play in keeping the destructive pest population under control.

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Hungry galaxies grow fat on the flesh of their neighbours

Full paper available here, read on for media release, photos, captions and background information.

Modelling shows big galaxies get bigger by merging with smaller ones

Distribution of dark matter density overlayed with the gas density. This image cleanly shows the gas channels connecting the central galaxy with its neighbours. Credit: Gupta et al/ASTRO 3D/ IllustrisTNG collaboration.

Galaxies grow large by eating their smaller neighbours, new research reveals.

Exactly how massive galaxies attain their size is poorly understood, not least because they swell over billions of years. But now a combination of observation and modelling from researchers led by Dr Anshu Gupta from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) has provided a vital clue.

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Windows will soon generate electricity, following solar cell breakthrough

Full paper available here, read on for media release, photos, captions and background information.

Two square metres of solar window will do the same job as a standard rooftop solar panel, Australian researchers say.

A semi-transparent perovskite solar cell with contrasting levels of light transparency.
Credits: Dr Jae Choul Yu

Semi-transparent solar cells that can be incorporated into window glass are a “game-changer” that could transform architecture, urban planning and electricity generation, Australian scientists say in a paper in Nano Energy.

The researchers – led by Professor Jacek Jasieniak from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science (Exciton Science) and Monash University – have succeeded in producing next-gen perovskite solar cells that generate electricity while allowing light to pass through. They are now investigating how the new technology could be built into commercial products with Viridian Glass, Australia’s largest glass manufacturer.

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Hot qubits made in Sydney break one of the biggest constraints to practical quantum computers

A proof-of-concept published in Nature promises warmer, cheaper and more robust quantum computing. And it can be manufactured using conventional silicon chip foundries.

For interviews contact Niall Byrne, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au, +61-417-131–977. Full media kit here.

Dr Henry Yang and Professor Andrew Dzurak: “hot qubits” are a game-changer for quantum computing development.
Credit: Paul Henderson-Kelly

Most quantum computers being developed around the world will only work at fractions of a degree above absolute zero. That requires multi-million-dollar refrigeration and as soon as you plug them into conventional electronic circuits they’ll instantly overheat.

But now researchers led by Professor Andrew Dzurak at UNSW Sydney have addressed this problem.

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Additions to resource industry underwater robots can boost ocean discoveries

Remotely operated vehicles used by the oil and gas sector can be enhanced to gather more scientific data, researchers say.

A picture containing ground, water

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An ROV fitted with an arm for collecting marine samples. Credit: AIMS

Underwater robots are regularly used by the oil and gas industry to inspect and maintain offshore structures. The same machines could be adapted to gather extra scientific information, thus boosting environmental and resource management capabilities, an Australian-led study has revealed.

Scientists from around the globe, led by Dianne McLean and Miles Parsons from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), are urging closer ties between industry and researchers to maximise the use of the underwater robots, known as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

In a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, they identify a range of instruments that can be easily added to the craft, including cameras, audio recorders and sample collectors.

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Next gen solar cells perform better when there’s a camera around

Full paper available here, read on for media release, photos, captions and background information.

Researchers find a simple way to detect tiny imperfections that affect performance. 

Perovskite solar cells bathed in blue light, and responding in infrared. Credit: Exciton Science

A literal “trick of the light” can detect imperfections in next-gen solar cells, boosting their efficiency to match that of existing silicon-based versions, researchers have found. 

The discovery opens a pathway to improved quality control for commercial production.

On small scales, perovskite solar cells – which promise cheap and abundant solar energy generation – are already almost as efficient as silicon ones. 

However, as scale increases the perovskite cells perform less well, because of nanoscale surface imperfections resulting from the way they are made.

As the number of unwanted tiny lumps and bumps grows, the amount of solar power generated per square centimetre drops off. 

Now, however, Australian researchers have come up with a solution – using a camera. 

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