This Is What the Universe Might Look Like If We Could See Radio Waves
published during a waning crescent moon.


The Milky Way as seen by the GLEAM sky survey. Credit: Natasha Hurley-Walker (Curtin / ICRAR) and the GLEAM Team.

Though it might seem like we see our world in an infinite variety of colors, in reality, most human eyes can only see the various shades and hues of only three primary colors.

But there are a lot more than three colors in the vastness of the Universe. We just can’t see the light from radio waves or ultraviolet light. But what if we could?

In a recent paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers showed what the night sky of the southern hemisphere looks like in glorious technicolor, imaging the sky in 20 primary colors, instead of our puny human three.


The GLEAM survey’s view of the sky as seen above the Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope, located in the Australian Outback. Credit: Radio image by Natasha Hurley-Walker (ICRAR/Curtin) and the GLEAM Team. MWA tile and landscape by Dr John Goldsmith / Celestial Visions.

But all this colorful research has a purpose beyond just creating glorious pictures. These images were created as part of the GaLactic and Extragalactic All-sky MWA, (GLEAM) survey. The MWA refers to the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) a giant radio telescope located in the Australian outback.

The colorful vision of the night sky has managed to image about 300,000 galaxies so far.

“Our team are using this survey to find out what happens when clusters of galaxies collide,” Natasha Hurley-Walker, lead author of the paper said. “We’re also able to see the remnants of explosions from the most ancient stars in our galaxy, and find the first and last gasps of supermassive black holes.”

The MWA is the first step in an even larger radio telescope project that is being built in Australia. When it is completed, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will, true to its name, cover a square kilometer, and be the largest radio telescope in the world.