Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths is a radio astronomer with CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.
Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths: galactic octopus wrestler
Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths uses CSIRO radio telescopes to map and study the interstellar hydrogen gas in our galaxy. In 2003, she discovered a new ‘arm’ of the Milky Way.
19 November 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011
Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths moved to Australia in 2001 to take up a position as a Bolton Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australia Telescope National Facility (now CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science).
She uses CSIRO’s radio telescopes, such as those at Parkes and Narrabri in New South Wales, to probe the hydrogen gas that makes up much of our Galaxy.
Her particular area of research is the interstellar medium, the hydrogen gas found in our Galaxy between the stars.
Hydrogen is the raw material from which stars form. Dr McClure-Griffiths is interested in the distribution and dynamic behaviour of this hydrogen gas.
One of her ongoing projects, the Galactic All-Sky Survey (GASS), has mapped all of the hydrogen gas in the southern sky. It required 2000 hours of time on the Parkes radio telescope and produced a far more detailed map than has been possible before.
Dr McClure-Griffiths studied Physics and French at Oberlin College, a liberal arts college in Ohio, USA, before gaining her PhD from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, USA, in 2001.
Her doctoral work received the Best Dissertation Award for Physical Sciences and Engineering, University of Minnesota Graduate School, Minnesota, USA, 2003.
'This thing came around and smacked me in the head. It’s huge, about 6 500 light years thick.
Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths
In 2003 Dr McClure-Griffiths’ team of four scientists discovered a new ‘arm’ of our Galaxy. As she stated at the time: 'This thing came around and smacked me in the head. It’s huge, about 6500 light years thick.'
'Our Galaxy is like a cosmic octopus. It has several ‘arms’ that curve out from its centre. Although the structure of our Galaxy has been studied for fifty years, there is still more to learn about it.'
This discovery was part of a larger project, the Southern Galactic Plane Survey that imaged hydrogen gas in one quarter of the plane of the Milky Way.
Dr McClure-Griffiths loves talking science. 'One of the best things about being an astronomer is that I am always facing big questions about how the Universe works,' she says.
In 2006, she was awarded the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.
Read more about CSIRO's work in Astrononomy & Space.