The Story of Light: Surveying the Cosmos

WHEN: Sunday, 4th June 2017, 2:00 - 3:30 pm

WHERE: Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, NSW 2007


  • Dr. Simon O’Toole (Australian Astronomical Observatory): Surveying stars and exoplanets.
  • Dr. Ángel R. López-Sánchez (Australian Astronomical Observatory / Macquarie University): Surveying the galaxies.
  • A/Prof. Tara Murphy (University of Sydney / CAASTRO): Surveying the invisible Universe.
  • Dr. Katie Mack (University of Melbourne): Surveying the deep Universe.

HOST: A/Prof. Alan R. Duffy (Swinburne University)

TICKETS: $15.00, Concession: $8.00, Child (16 years and under): FREE. Tickets can be bought in the Event Webpage of the PowerHouse Museum.

Vivid Sydney 2017 "Story of Light" poster

Following the success of our sold-out Event “The Story of Light – The Astronomer’s Perspective” for ViVID Sydney Ideas 2015, and “The Story of Light – Deciphering the data encoded on the cosmic light” (see photos and the video of this event), the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) continues its collaboration with ViVID Sydney 2017 organizing “The Story of Light – Surveying the Cosmos”.

This Science Communication event is also connected to the 2017 Southern Cross Astrophysics Conference: Surveying the Cosmos, the Science from massively multiplexed surveys, Sydney 5 - 9 June 2017.

How do astronomers explore the Universe?

Astrophysicists use extremely sensitive telescopes and instruments to collect the light emitted by stars, gas and galaxies. The analysis of this data provides the information needed to unlock the mysteries of the Cosmos.

However, this is not an easy task. Over the last two decades large international collaborations have been formed with the aim to map the skies, catalogue celestial objects, extract their properties and perform statistical analyses. These large astronomical surveys are now providing major advances in our understanding of the Cosmos at all scales, from searching for planets around other stars to detecting gravitational waves.

Australia is at the forefront of these collaborations thanks to the unique instruments at the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) and the development of radio-interferometers as the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP).

In this event, five professional astrophysicists will discuss how astronomers map the Cosmos using the big data collected with optical and radio telescopes by large astronomical surveys. Hear about the exciting challenges in detecting planets around other stars, learn about how these studies allow us to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies, including our Milky Way, how we study dark matter and dark energy and, in summary, how astronomers search the skies to understand our position in the Cosmos. The panel will happily answer any questions about the Universe, so bring yours along.

Dr. Simon O'Toole
Dr. Simon O’Toole  spent a decade hunting planets orbiting stars other than the Sun. He is now the Project Scientist for the Australian Astronomical Observatory Data Central project, which connects researchers to a wealth of theoretical and observational data from telescopes across the globe. Dr O’Toole builds tools that help people access astronomical data and images and interact with them in meaningful ways. You can find him on Twitter as @drsimmo.
 Dr. Angel Lopez-Sanchez Dr. Ángel R. López-Sánchez is an astronomer and science communicator at the Australian Astronomical Observatory and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Macquarie University. He studies how the gas is converted into stars in nearby galaxies and how this affects galaxy evolution. He also provides support for visiting astronomers to the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT, Siding Spring Observatory, NSW). Dr. López-Sánchez is passionate science communicator who continuously gives talks and public lectures, writes popular science writings and organizes stargazing activities. He is very active in social media, his Twitter feed is @El_Lobo_Rayado.
 A/Prof. Tara Murphy A/Prof. Tara Murphy is an astrophysicist working in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney. She is an ARC Future Fellow and a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics. Her research focuses on detecting and studying transient and highly variable astrophysical phenomena with next generation radio telescopes. She leads an international team of researchers searching for variable and transient sources with the Murchison Widefield Array and the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescopes in Western Australia. Tara is passionate about teaching and high school outreach. She has been a director of the National Computer Science School since 2004 and director of the NCSS Challenge. In 2014 Tara co-founded a start-up company, Grok Learning, to get high school students around the world excited about computational thinking. Her Twitter feed is @taraxmurphy.
Dr. Katie Mack Dr. Katie Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist. Her work focuses on finding new ways to learn about the early universe and fundamental physics using astronomical observations, probing the building blocks of nature by examining the cosmos on the largest scales. Throughout her career as a researcher at Caltech, Princeton, Cambridge, and now Melbourne University, she has studied dark matter, black holes, cosmic strings, and the formation of the first galaxies in the Universe. Katie is also science writer, an active online science communicator and is passionate about science outreach. You can find her in Twitter as @astrokatie.
 Dr. Alan Duffy A/Prof. Alan Duffy is an astronomer at Swinburne University creating model universes on supercomputers to understand how galaxies like our own Milky Way form and explore the nature of the hidden universe; dark matter and dark energy. He is a team member of two main surveys with the next generation  Australian SKA Pathfinder and is Co-Investigator in the world's first dark matter detector in the Southern Hemisphere in Stawell, Victoria. He is a regular on ABC Breakfast News and Ten’s The Project and is an experienced public speaker, ranging from amateur astronomy nights, school talks to TEDx at the Sydney Opera House. You can find him on Twitter as @astroduff.


More information in the Vivid Sydney 2017 website of  “The Story of Light – Surveying the Cosmos”.

Tickets can be bought in the Event Webpage of the PowerHouse Museum.

Complete video and photos of "The Story of Light 2016: Deciphering the data encoded on the cosmic light".