— Ivy Wong, as­tro­physi­cist

Cosmos - - Contents - — BELINDA SMITH

ASK AN AS­TRONOMER what hooked her on the field and she’ll likely tell you about gaz­ing at the night sky as a kid. Not Ivy Wong. Grow­ing up, she set her sights on be­com­ing a vet­eri­nar­ian. But when she be­gan bi­ol­ogy classes at the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne, she couldn’t quite stom­ach dis­sect­ing an­i­mals. “I was more squea­mish than I thought I would be,” she re­calls, so she switched to maths and physics.

Wong wasn’t sure where her new ma­jors might lead un­til she landed a va­ca­tion schol­ar­ship to work at the Parkes ra­dio te­le­scope in cen­tral-west New South Wales. “I knew noth­ing about as­tron­omy back then,” she says. It cap­ti­vated her.

To­day at the In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre for Ra­dio As­tron­omy Re­search at the Univer­sity of Western Aus­tralia, Wong uses ra­dio tele­scopes to study gal­ax­ies form­ing from vast clouds of cold gas, and the su­per­mas­sive black hole that can lurk within them.

She watches th­ese gal­ax­ies fu­ri­ously churn out stars un­til they run out of fuel or are stran­gled by warm­ing ra­di­a­tion spew­ing from their black hole.

Wong still spends time with an­i­mals, but in a less nau­se­at­ing way. She fos­ters cats with a lit­tle help from her per­ma­nent kitty com­pan­ions, Pippa and Finn.

IM­AGE f22 Pho­tog­ra­phy

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