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Press release

  • 28 February 2006

Sussex astronomers first to see new stars and galaxies

Star-seeking infrared telescope Akari (ASTRO-F)

Star-seeking infrared telescope Akari (ASTRO-F)

Astronomers at the University of Sussex will be among the first to discover unknown stars and galaxies at the far reaches of the Universe following the launch of the world's most advanced infrared space telescope.

Dr Seb Oliver and Dr Richard Savage, based at the University's Astronomy Centre, are working with a UK team of scientists involved in analysing data produced by the Akari telescope, which blasted off from the Uchinoura Space Centre in Japan on February 21, 2006.

As it orbits Earth, Akari, developed by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) with European partners, will map the Universe at infrared and far-infrared wavelengths, revealing the heat glow of objects hidden behind clouds of cosmic dust. The survey will study some of the rarest objects in the Universe including 'starbursts' - dramatic explosions of star formation.

Dr Oliver says: "The Sussex team is responsible for a key element of the data analysis for the far-infrared all-sky survey. The major product of the mission is to map the whole sky and produce a catalogue of millions of galaxies. Our role is the final stage - actually discovering the stars and galaxies."

Dr Savage adds: "This is 'Big Science' in its grandest sense. The legacy value of Akari should be incredible. It will see everything from asteroids in our own solar system to galaxies most of the way back to the Big Bang, along with everything in between. The sheer range of science we can address is staggering, from features of our own solar system all the way to Dark Energy and the nature of the Universe in which we live."

Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) which funded UK participation in the mission, says: "Our involvement in Akari signifies the international reputation and expertise of UK astronomers."

Akari (formerly called ASTRO-F) is a Japanese space telescope with UK, Netherlands and ESA (European Space Agency) involvement. British astronomers are an important part of this major new space mission, both in terms of data analysis and exploitation. Teams at Imperial College London, the Open University, and the University of Sussex, together with the Netherlands Institute for Space Research and Groningen University in The Netherlands, developed some of the data analysis and will be working on Akari's pioneering all-sky infrared survey.

Notes for editors

University of Sussex press contacts: Jacqui Bealing and Maggie Clune, Tel: 01273 678888 Email:

For background press release see:

JAXA Press Release:

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