Tag Archives: radio telescopes

Finding pulsars in the archives

China has a large community of astronomers awaiting the construction of new telescopes to study pulsars.

When CSIRO pulsar researcher Dr George Hobbs described the high-quality data stored in the Parkes Observatory Pulsar Data Archive—which is openly available—it led to Australian pulsar data being the basis of collaboration between Chinese and Australian pulsar researchers. And they have already published several papers on what they have discovered. The archive is also serving as a major resource in an international search for gravitational waves.

Continue reading Finding pulsars in the archives

Wide open skies for Australian astronomy

CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope is already booked out for much of its first five years of data gathering, even before it formally begins early operations in 2013.

One of CSIRO’s ASKAP antennas at the MRO. Credit: Barry Turner, CSIRO

More than 400 astronomers from over a dozen nations have already signed up to look for pulsars, measure cosmic magnetic fields, and study millions of galaxies.

ASKAP was built at the specifically radio-quiet Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia as a technology demonstrator for the $2 billion Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.
Continue reading Wide open skies for Australian astronomy

Telescope of tiles

No moving parts – a new kind of radio telescope
The Murchison Widefield Array is a telescope with no moving parts. Credit: David Herne, ICRAR

Far outback in Western Australia, 32 tiles—flat, stationary sensors—each carrying 16 dipole antennas have begun collecting scientific data.

These first tiles will ultimately form part of a much bigger array of 512 tiles, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA)—Australia’s second Square Kilometre Array (SKA) demonstrator project. Like CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP), the MWA is being built at the remote, radio-quiet Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO). Continue reading Telescope of tiles

Tracing cosmic rays from radio pulses

‘THE DISH’ AT PARKES. CREDIT: SETH SHOSTAK
‘THE DISH’ AT PARKES. CREDIT: SETH SHOSTAK

The energy of ultra-high energy (UHE) cosmic rays that strike the Earth’s atmosphere make the energy produced from particle collisions by the Large Hadron Collider look puny. A team based in South Australia is now developing the techniques and technology to find out where such energetic particles could possibly originate. They ultimately hope to use the proposed SKA telescope to conduct their search.

“We think some cosmic rays are produced in the remnants of supernovae—exploding stars—but where the most energetic ones come from, that’s a mystery,” says Justin Bray, a PhD student hunting for their source as part of the LUNASKA (Lunar Ultra-high-energy Neutrino Astrophysics using SKA) project led by Ray Protheroe at the University of Adelaide and Ron Ekers at CSIRO. Continue reading Tracing cosmic rays from radio pulses

Australia’s SKA demonstrator already booked out

The sky's no limit with ASKAP
THE FIRST ASKAP DISH BEING ERECTED IN FEBRUARY 2010. CREDIT: DAVE DEBOER, CSIRO

It’s not due to begin operating until 2013, but astronomers from around the world are already lining up to use CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP). In fact, the first five years of ASKAP’s operation are already booked out, with ten major international Survey Science projects looking for pulsars, measuring cosmic magnetic fields, studying millions of galaxies, and more. Continue reading Australia’s SKA demonstrator already booked out

Putting Einstein to the ultimate test

CSIRO’s Parkes telescope records pulsar signals to try to detect gravitational waves. Credit: David McClenaghan / CSIRO

Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicts them, and they could be scattered throughout the Universe. But so far, gravitational waves— ‘ripples’ in the fabric of space and time—have never been detected. Several Australian teams of astronomers are trying to catch the first signs of one.

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PlayStation graphics chips drive astronomy supercomputer

MATTHEW BAILES IN THE SWINBURNE VIRTUAL REALITY THEATRE IN FRONT OF AN IMAGE OF THE DOUBLE PULSAR DISCOVERED WITH CSIRO’S PARKES RADIO TELESCOPE. CREDIT: SWINBURNE UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY.
MATTHEW BAILES IN THE SWINBURNE VIRTUAL REALITY THEATRE IN FRONT OF AN IMAGE OF THE DOUBLE PULSAR DISCOVERED WITH CSIRO’S PARKES RADIO TELESCOPE. CREDIT: SWINBURNE UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY.

The technology used in your PC or PlayStation is also helping drive a revolution in radio astronomy—the replacement of custom-built hardware with flexible software and data solutions.

“Hardware solutions for radio astronomy have been evolving, but computer power has been evolving much faster,” says Matthew Bailes, from the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. The Centre has developed software systems that are now used in Australia and overseas. Continue reading PlayStation graphics chips drive astronomy supercomputer

From mapping a continent to surveying the Universe

SIDING SPRING MOUNTAIN’ IS HOME TO OVER A DOZEN AUSTRALIAN AND INTERNATIONAL TELESCOPES. CREDIT: FRED KAMPHUES.
SIDING SPRING MOUNTAIN’ IS HOME TO OVER A DOZEN AUSTRALIAN AND INTERNATIONAL TELESCOPES. CREDIT: FRED KAMPHUES.

Australia’s first observatory was built on the shores of Sydney Harbour by Lieutenant William Dawes of the First Fleet, on the point where the southern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge now stands. Optical astronomy was essential for maritime navigation, and for providing precise location measurements for surveying the new continent.

The country’s first major observatory was established in 1821 at Parramatta by Thomas Brisbane, Governor of New South Wales and, later, President of the Royal Society. The observatory was used to discover and record the galaxy NGC 5128—a now much-studied galaxy that radio astronomers know as Centaurus A, within which sits a super-massive black hole (see Recording the impact of a super-massive black hole). Continue reading From mapping a continent to surveying the Universe

Spinning galaxies reveal missing matter

PHOTO: DARK MATTER DOMINATES GALAXIES AND GROUPS OF GALAXIES, YET ITS IDENTITY REMAINS UNKNOWN. CREDIT: DAVID MALIN, AUSTRALIAN ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY.
PHOTO: DARK MATTER DOMINATES GALAXIES AND GROUPS OF GALAXIES, YET ITS IDENTITY REMAINS UNKNOWN. CREDIT: DAVID MALIN, AUSTRALIAN ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY.

Australian astronomers have long been contributing to our understanding of a strange cosmological phenomenon—the Universe’s missing matter.

In the early 1970s, Ken Freeman of the Australian National University (ANU) determined that spiral galaxies must contain more matter than we can see. He postulated that dark matter—an invisible material first proposed 40 years earlier—must make up at least half the mass of these galaxies. Now, patches of dark matter are thought to be scattered across the Universe, playing a major role in holding galaxies and groups of galaxies together. Continue reading Spinning galaxies reveal missing matter

No moving parts – a new kind of radio telescope

Murchison Widefield Array
The Murchison Widefield Array is one of the first telescopes with no moving parts. Credit: David Herne, ICRAR

Far outback in Western Australia, at the Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory located on Boolardy Station, 315 km north-east of Geraldton, 32 tiles each carrying 16 dipole antennas have begun to collect scientific data on the Sun. At the same time they are providing engineering information to be used to extend the facility to a much bigger array of 512 tiles – the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA).

Continue reading No moving parts – a new kind of radio telescope