Tag Archives: Vic

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

Managing a data mountain

The world’s largest telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), is expected to generate more data in a single day than the world does in a year at present. And even its prototype, CSIRO’s ASKAP, is expected to accumulate more information within six hours of being switched on than all previous radio telescopes combined.

Such gargantuan streams of data require serious management, and that will be one of the jobs of the $80 million iVEC Pawsey Centre in Perth, which is due to be completed in 2013.

The planned Pawsey High-Performance Computing Centre for SKA Science in Perth (photo credit: Woodhead/CSIRO)

Continue reading Managing a data mountain

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

Supercomputers bring theory to life

A DEPICTION OF THE DISTRIBUTION OF MATTER IN AN OBJECT NEARLY TEN MILLION LIGHT YEARS ACROSS AND A THOUSAND TIMES THE MASS OF THE MILKY WAY. THOUSANDS OF THESE EXIST IN THE OBSERVABLE UNIVERSE. CREDIT: GREG POOLE, SWINBURNE UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY.
A DEPICTION OF THE DISTRIBUTION OF MATTER IN AN OBJECT NEARLY TEN MILLION LIGHT YEARS ACROSS AND A THOUSAND TIMES THE MASS OF THE MILKY WAY. THOUSANDS OF THESE EXIST IN THE OBSERVABLE UNIVERSE. CREDIT: GREG POOLE, SWINBURNE UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY.

Over aeons of time cosmic gas comes together, stars begin to form, supernovae explode, galaxies collide. And computational astronomers can watch it all unfold inside a supercomputer. That’s the kind of work post-doctoral fellows Rob Crain and Greg Poole are doing at the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. Continue reading Supercomputers bring theory to life

Stellar immigration

DUNCAN FORBES IS IDENTIFYING ALIEN STARS. CREDIT: PAUL JONES.

If the Milky Way did grow by swallowing up smaller galaxies, then another team suspects it knows where in the Milky Way some of those alien stars are hiding.

Duncan Forbes of Swinburne University of Technology and his Canadian colleague Terry Bridges are using Hubble Space Telescope data to identify clusters of alien stars, using the fact that their age and chemical composition differs from their neighbours.

Continue reading Stellar immigration

Nurturing super astronomers at home

SUPER SCIENCE FELLOW DR JAMES ALLISON AT NARRABRI DURING AN OBSERVING RUN AT THE AUSTRALIA TELESCOPE COMPACT ARRAY. CREDIT: ANANT TANNA.
SUPER SCIENCE FELLOW DR JAMES ALLISON AT NARRABRI DURING AN OBSERVING RUN AT THE AUSTRALIA TELESCOPE COMPACT ARRAY. CREDIT: ANANT TANNA.

Advanced telescopes need advanced astronomers to run them. Australia is matching the millions of dollars it is investing in new telescope technology with funds to help train the rising stars of Australian astronomy.

“We’ve had big investments in infrastructure, and now we need young scientists with the expertise to use them,” says Elaine Sadler, professor of Astrophysics at the University of Sydney and chair of the National Committee for Astronomy.

One new tranche of research funding for early career astronomers comes in the form of three-year Super Science Fellowships from the Commonwealth Government. In 2011, 14 young astronomers became Super Science Fellows, joining the 17 who started work in 2010. All up, astronomy will receive one-third of the Federal Government’s $27 million commitment to the Fellowships program. Continue reading Nurturing super astronomers at home

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

Measuring the Universe from start to finish

THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE CAN BE USED TO TAKE MEASUREMENTS THAT WILL HELP ANSWER SOME OF THE BIGGEST QUESTIONS ABOUT THE UNIVERSE. CREDIT: NASA/STSCI.
THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE CAN BE USED TO TAKE MEASUREMENTS THAT WILL HELP ANSWER SOME OF THE BIGGEST QUESTIONS ABOUT THE UNIVERSE. CREDIT: NASA/STSCI.

Scientific puzzles don’t come much bigger than these. How old is the Universe? How big is it? And what is its ultimate fate?

A single number, Hubble’s constant, is the key that can unlock all of those questions, but it’s a number that has proved notoriously hard to accurately measure. Hubble’s constant is the rate at which the Universe is expanding. The first team to accurately make that measurement was co-led by Jeremy Mould, now a professor at Swinburne University of Technology and professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne. Continue reading Measuring the Universe from start to finish

Galaxies point the way to dark energy

WiggleZ will hunt for dark energy in the faint patterns of 293,000 distant galaxies. Credit: NASA / ESA / HUDF09 Team

A project to produce more than double the number of galaxy distance measurements than all other previous surveys, could lead to an explanation of one of nature’s biggest mysteries—whether dark energy, an invisible force that opposes gravity, has remained constant or changed since the beginning of time.

Continue reading Galaxies point the way to dark energy

Starving cancer and other stories

Prostate cancers are made up of hungry, growing cells. Now we’ve discovered how to cut off their food supply thanks to a study published in Cancer Research and supported by Movember. More below. Also Australian science discoveries you may have missed from the past week. Heart cells growing in a test-tube – Melbourne How birds [...]