Astronomers set to see entire Universe

Dec 1, 2014

Tamara Davis ... contemplating the limits of space and time. Photo: University of Queensland

Tamara Davis … contemplating the limits of space and time. Photo: University of Queensland

Astronomers will soon become ‘know-it-alls’. Literally.

In the next few decades, astronomers will see almost everything in the Universe that can be seen, says Associate Professor Tamara Davis of the University of Queensland.

“But there is a ‘cosmic horizon’, a physical limit to what we can see,” she said.

Associate Professor Davis, an astrophysicist, leads the ‘Dark Universe’ theme of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics.

On Wednesday [3 December] she’ll be talking about the limits of the observable Universe at the ‘Edges of Astronomy’ conference run by the Australian Academy of Science at the Shine Dome in Canberra.

“The next few generations of telescopes will be able to survey almost the entire volume of the Universe, in all directions, all the way back to almost the beginning of time,” Associate Professor Davis said.

“For the first time, the limit of our knowledge will be dictated by the physics of the Universe itself, rather than the capabilities of our instruments.”

However, she added, “even if we can see things happening, that doesn’t mean that we understand them.”

“For instance, we can see galaxies forming, but we still don’t understand all of the laws of physics that make that happen.”

Associate Professor Davis leads projects tackling two of the big unknowns in cosmology: dark matter (which holds galaxies together), and dark energy (which makes the expansion of the universe speed up).

Author of more than 60 publications, including two Nature papers and ten papers with over 100 citations, she is one of the most highly cited astrophysicists in the world, ranking in the top 1%.

In Wednesday’s session Associate Professor Davis will be joined by three other astrophysicists who’ll discuss how far back in time we can see, the limits due to the smallest scales we can see, and the fundamental limits to knowledge.

More information
Associate Professor Tamara Davis,
University of Queensland
M: 0432 526 989