Australian Institute of Physics

South Australian Branch

Joint meeting
Joint meeting with the Astronomical Society of SA
Wednesday, October 5th, 2005, at 8:00pm
in the Kerr Grant lecture theatre,
Physics building, University of Adelaide

Dr Frank Briggs
Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Mount Stromlo.

"Exploring the Dark Age with radio telescopes in Australia"

Astronomers describe the period just prior to the formation of the first stars as the "Dark Age." This period ends when stars and galaxies ignite and radiate ionising photons into the smooth, cool gas of hydgrogen and helium that characterises the Universe at an age of approximately 100 million years. The formation of the first luminous objects also marks the beginning of the Epoch of Reionisation, when the once cool gas is heated and reionised to reach the excited state that persists to this day. An important goal of most new telescopes - for both radio and infrared wavelengths -- is to explore this period, in order to learn when and how the first galaxies formed.

At radio wavelengths, Australia is well positioned to participate in these observational studies, since its remote areas are ideal sites for building radio telescopes that will be free from the radio polution that limits the sensitivity in most of the rest of the world. Indeed, projects to apply new technologies to radio astronomical instrumentation in the Australian outback are underway.


Frank Briggs is a professor at Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysis at Mount Stromlo. He holds a joint appointment at the Australian National University and the Australian Telescope National Facility of the CSIRO. He previously held positions at the Kapteyn Institute at the University of Groningen (Netherlands) and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at University of Pittsburgh (USA).

Briggs' research interests focus on the structure and evolution of galaxies as traced by radio observations of the neutral hydrogen gas. He is active in supporting plans for new telescopes, such as the Square Kilometre Array, and he is a strong proponent for construction of the Low Frequency Demostrator, a radio telescope array of novel design that has been proposed for a site in Western Australia by an international consortium of universities and the ATNF.

Professor Frank Briggs (right) taking questions from the audience.