PM’s Prize winner working on astronomy pathfinder

John O’Sullivan with a prototype of the revolutionary phased array feed for the ASKAP. Credit: Chris Walsh, Patrick Jones Photo Studio
John O’Sullivan with a prototype of the revolutionary phased array feed for the ASKAP. Credit: Chris Walsh, Patrick Jones Photo Studio

CSIRO’s Dr John O’Sullivan, winner of the 2009 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, is now working on the next generation of radio telescopes.

John’s latest efforts are directed towards the development of an innovative radio camera or ‘phased array feed’ with a uniquely wide field-of-view for the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope.

ASKAP is currently being constructed by CSIRO in the superbly radio quiet Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory site in Western Australia.

To be made up of 36 identical 12 metre antennas working together as one instrument, ASKAP will allow astronomers to answer questions about cosmic magnetism, the evolution and formation of galaxies, and to assist in the discovery of pulsars and possibly gravitational waves. Once built, it will operate as part of CSIRO’s radio-astronomy facility for use by Australian and international scientists.

John’s ‘chequerboard’ design for the phased array feed, along with ASKAP’s unique three-axis antenna movement, means that the telescope will be able to survey large areas of sky with unprecedented sensitivity.

By increasing its information gathering capacity by more than an order of magnitude, John’s work is central to achieving key science outcomes for ASKAP and has the potential to influence the design of the future international Square Kilometre Array telescope project.

Further information: Australia and New Zealand SKA Project, Tel: +61 (2) 6213 6000, www.ska.gov.au

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