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Friday, 19 May, 2000, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Voyage through the Universe
2df Collaboration
The survey has covered 100,000 galaxies
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

Astronomers have unveiled a dramatic computer visualisation of a trip through the Universe based on actual data collected by a sky survey.

 Click here to fly through the Universe

The voyage coincides with a landmark in a project to provide the most detailed three-dimensional map ever made of the cosmos.

It has always been part of our aim to provide a version so that the general public can pilot their own intergalactic spaceship

Prof Brian Boyle
The team of researchers from Australia and the UK measured the distances to 100,000 galaxies, four times the number in any previous survey.

Professor Brian Boyle from the Anglo-Australian Observatory and Professor Matthew Bailes from Swinburne University in Australia used Australia's largest optical telescope, the 3.9m (153 inch) Anglo-Australian Telescope and an instrument called 2dF to gather the information.

The 2dF detector allows astronomers to observe and analyse 400 objects at once, and on a long clear night, they can log the positions of more than 2,000 galaxies.

Better than Hollywood

Dr Matthew Colless of the Australian National University said: "It has taken less than two years to measure the distances for these 100,000 galaxies. Without the 2dF instrument, this project would have taken decades. We are now well on our way to reaching our target of 250,000 galaxies by the end of 2001."

Prof Bailes said: "Most of us are used to the Hollywood versions of travelling through the Universe, but this version is much closer to the truth."

Prof Boyle added: "Astronomers will use our three-dimensional map to learn about the nature of the Universe for many years to come, but it has always been part of our aim to provide a version so that the general public can pilot their own intergalactic spaceship."

The 2dF instrument, one of the most complex pieces of astronomical equipment ever built, is the key to the survey. It uses 400 optical fibres, all of which can be positioned by an incredibly accurate robotic arm in just one hour.

The optical fibres pipe the light from each galaxy into one of two spectrographs. The spectrographs split the light into its component colours and after analysis astronomers can work out the distance to the galaxy.

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See also:

29 Jan 99 | Sci/Tech
Universe put on the map
09 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
New light on dark matter
08 Jun 99 | Sci/Tech
Most distant galaxy found
15 Jun 99 | Sci/Tech
Bright hopes for large telescopes
28 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Pictures of the early Universe
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