Revealing the Magnetic Universe
We have discovered thousands of planets, sent people to the moon and back, and built telescopes and satellites that peer deep into space. Yet there are still great mysteries about the cosmos that elude us. For example, we don’t know what happened after the Big Bang—how the universe evolved, what it is made of, or how it continues to change.
Dr. Bryan Gaensler, Canada Research Chair in Radio Astronomy, is searching for answers to questions like these. Much of his effort has been devoted to developing and planning the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which—when completed in twin locations in South Africa and Australia—will be the largest radio telescope ever built, and will help answer questions about the very early universe and how it evolved into the cosmos we know today.
Optical telescopes, such as the Hubble, produce stunning visual images of stars and galaxies. Radio telescopes are used to explore the hidden universe by detecting radio waves from violent and extreme objects, such as supermassive black holes. In providing this alternative view of the universe, radio telescopes can detect invisible gases and reveal areas of space that may be obscured by cosmic dust.
Gaensler and his research team will use radio signals from space to study how magnetism in the universe has evolved and to carry out a novel census of the changing sky. The aim of this research is to make new discoveries about the universe and design the experiments planned for the SKA—a multibillion-dollar project that promises enormous scientific, economic, and engineering opportunities for Canada.