Dr Bärbel Koribalski in a red t-shirt standing in front of a project image of a white radio telescope dish.

CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science's Dr Bärbel Koribalski.

Dr Bärbel Koribalski: exploring galaxies and dark matter

Dr Bärbel Koribalski investigates the structure and dynamics of nearby galaxies using radio telescopes tuned to the 21-cm spectral line of interstellar hydrogen.

  • 4 September 2012 | Updated 21 March 2013

Current activities

Dr Bärbel Koribalski is a senior research astronomer with CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.

She was appointed an Office of the Chief Executive (OCE) Science Leader in August 2012 and received CSIRO's Newton Turner Award in 2011.

Her research focuses on large-scale neutral hydrogen (HI) surveys of galaxies in the Local Universe obtained with CSIRO's 64-m Parkes "Dish" and Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA).

Dr Koribalski leads one of the major 21-cm surveys to be conducted with CSIRO's Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope, which is currently under construction at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia.

Dr Koribalski's research is focused primarily on nearby galaxies, their gas content and dark matter distribution.

Key HI surveys:

  • WALLABY: the ASKAP HI All-Sky Survey
  • LVHIS: the Local Volume HI Survey
  • HIPASS: the HI Parkes All-Sky Survey

The ASKAP HI All-Sky Survey, led by Dr Koribalski and her colleague Professor Lister Staveley-Smith from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research and the University of Western Australia, will cover the same area as HIPASS but go much deeper and detect at least 500 000 galaxies.

The WALLABY team will catalogue the properties (including dark matter content) of galaxies and map their large-scale structure.

The gas kinematics of only about 100 nearby galaxies are currently well mapped in the southern sky — this was done by Dr Koribalski and her team as part of the LVHIS project, which required more than 2500 hours of observing time using ATCA.

ASKAP, equipped with novel phased array feeds (or "radio cameras"), will be a 21-cm survey machine.

It provides an important step towards planning the much larger Square Kilometre Array instrument.

Bärbel's particular area of interest is exploring the cold gas and dark matter content of galaxies.

The 21-cm line of neutral hydrogen allows her to measure the extended disks of galaxies, their dark matter distribution, as well as tidal gas streams between galaxies.


Dr Koribalski obtained her PhD at the University of Bonn in Germany.

She was awarded the Max-Planck Society's Otto-Hahn Medal for her research done in collaboration with colleagues at the neighboring Max-Plank-Institut für Radioastronomie (MPIfR).

In July 1993 she joined CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility (now CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science) as a postdoctoral fellow.

Dr Koribalski now supervises numerous postdoctoral fellows and PhD students based at a range of Australian and international universities.

Dr Koribalski is also the coordinator of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science's PhD student co-supervision program.

Dr Koribalski's primary scientific interests are the study of:

  • galaxy structure and kinematics
  • galaxy formation and evolution
  • tidal streams and bridges between galaxies.

Academic qualifications

  • Physics Diploma, University of Bonn, 1990
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Radio Astronomy), University of Bonn, 1993.


Dr Koribalski's research is focused primarily on nearby galaxies, their gas content and dark matter distribution.

She has published more than 200 papers, including more than 130 papers in highly cited international journals.

In 2011 Dr Koribalski received CSIRO's Newton Turner Award.

She used the award to gather an international team of experts to create 3D visualisations of the neutral gas and stars in galaxies by combining the HI maps from her LVHIS project with multi-wavelength (optical, infra-red and ultra-violet) images from several space telescopes.

Learn more about CSIRO's work in Astronomy and Space Science.