WITH MUCH OF the outback free from light pollution, Australia is an ideal platform for stargazing. Although we may not have our own space agency, such as NASA or Europe’s ESA, and our astronomy research funding is comparatively slim, our contributions to understanding the universe are not to be underestimated.
From amateurs making groundbreaking observations, to helping NASA land a man on the Moon, we’ve shown that the folks from Down Under aren’t afraid to look up above.
11945: Development of radio astronomy
Joseph Lade Pawsey, Ruby Payne-Scott and Lindsay McCready, at the CSIR Radiophysics Laboratory, used an RAAF antenna north of Sydney to measure the temperature of the Sun. Established wisdom suggested the temperature should be about 6000°C, so they were baffled when they recorded a temperature of 1 million degrees. They had, in fact, detected the heat of the Sun’s corona – or atmosphere – which is hotter than the surface and impossible to see with visible light from Earth, except during a solar eclipse. It was the first time radio waves had been used to make an observation not possible with light, and it paved the way for modern radio astronomy.