You have to be well prepared, quick and lucky to take a picture of an explosion, especially if that explosion occurred 11 billion years ago in a remote part of the Universe. Having the right equipment, plus friends in high places, certainly helps. And that’s exactly what the Zadko Telescope—managed by the University of Western Australia at the Gingin Observatory about 70 kilometres north of Perth—does have.
In December 2008, just after it was installed, the telescope was first on the scene to record for future analysis the afterglow of a momentous event—a huge explosion as a star collapsed into a black hole releasing a massive gamma-ray burst. It’s the kind of happening the one-metre Zadko Telescope, currently the largest optical telescope in Western Australia, was built to observe. And it performed flawlessly, outpacing the world’s most powerful telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.
But it had a little help from its friends. The robotic Zadko Telescope is part of a network of ground stations linked to NASA’s Swift space telescope, which was launched to detect and observe just such gamma-ray bursts. Swift is equipped with three instruments, one of which, the Burst Alert Telescope, can locate and calculate the coordinates of a burst within 15 seconds. The position is then passed on to ground-based telescopes such as the Zadko.
The Zadko Telescope was established particularly with high school and university students in mind. They will participate fully in its research program. The telescope was made possible by a generous philanthropic donation by James Zadko to the University of Western Australia (UWA). The research facility is jointly managed by the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), the Australian International Gravitational Research Centre, and the UWA School of Physics.
PHOTO: THE ZADKO TELESCOPE MAKING OBSERVATIONS NEAR GINGIN, 70 KILOMETRES NORTH OF PERTH. CREDIT: JOHN GOLDSMITH/CELESTIAL VISIONS.
Zadko Telescope Associate Professor David Coward, Tel: +61 (8) 6488 4563, firstname.lastname@example.org, zt.science.uwa.edu.au