The Origin of Matter and the Periodic Table

The elements transform the way stars are born and how they evolve, how they explode and die, and how they assemble into galaxies. Australia is currently leading research in this field using different experimental and theoretical approaches, targeting different wavelength ranges and different ages and size scales of the Universe.

In ASTRO 3D, these areas will coalesce under the common goal of understanding the origins of the elements of the periodic table and how they built into the galaxies around us. We are:


Using state-of-the-art European Southern Observatory (ESO) 8-10m telescopes to track the chemical elements in the first stars and with galaxies across cosmic time.

Measuring the elements in the first stars, discovered with ANU SkyMapper telescope

Mapping the elements in the earliest galaxies via metal absorption lines viewed through the spectra of background quasars

Tracking the growth of the chemical elements and matter using spectroscopy and integral field technology that creates 3-dimensional data cubes, to bridge the Epoch of Reionisation to present day

Using gravitational lensing, as proposed by Einstein, where the massive gravity of nearby clusters of galaxies magnifies the light of faint background galaxies 10-50x, creating nature’s largest telescopes, to probe the most distant galaxies



Measuring the distribution of mass and angular momentum in the nearby Universe during the first two years of this Centre using the new wide-field instrument, SAMI. With the next generation SAMI (called HECTOR), we will survey an unparalleled 100,000 galaxies across a contiguous volume of the southern sky, revealing how galaxies are distributed across space, their dynamic motions, and how these key properties affect the accumulation of the chemical elements in galaxies







  • Comparing the observed growth of the elements and matter in spiral galaxies with the archaeological history of our Milky Way, for the first time. The junction of these traditionally separate research areas, alongside theoretical modelling on Australia’s most powerful supercomputers, stands to transform our understanding of the chemical Universe. The culmination of this theme will be the first comprehensive picture of the build-up of the chemical elements and matter within the Universe, from the scale of galaxy superclusters to star-forming regions within individual galaxies.