Tag Archives: Square Kilometre Array

The ‘coolest’ place for astronomy

High on the Antarctic Plateau, in one of the coldest places on Earth, a group of telescopes are peering through stellar dust clouds into the heart of our galaxy.

The cold helps counteract interference from the telescopes and surrounding equipment, which can hinder our ability to see relatively
‘cool’ objects in space, such as asteroids, young stars, and interstellar gas.

Continue reading The ‘coolest’ place for astronomy

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.
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Prized astronomer continues to contribute

He received the first ever Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year in 2000, then the Shaw Prize in Astronomy in 2006, the Gruber Cosmology Prize in 2007 and the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011—it’s been a satisfying progression for Brian Schmidt, professor of astronomy at the Australian National University, and for Australian science. Schmidt led one of two research teams that determined that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating.

Brian Schmidt, the Malcolm McIntosh Physical Scientist of the Year 2011. Credit: ANU
Brian Schmidt, the Malcolm McIntosh Physical Scientist of the Year 2000 and 2011 Physics Nobel Laureate. Credit: ANU

But winning awards does not mean he’s resting on his laurels. Apart from countless invitations to speak, Brian has his hands full with commissioning SkyMapper, a new optical telescope equipped with Australia’s largest digital camera at 268 megapixels. And he’s also involved in two significant new facilities pioneering technology to be used in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescope: the Murchison Widefield Array and the Australian SKA Pathfinder. And in his spare time, he’s working on one of the next generation of optical telescopes, the Giant Magellan Telescope.
Continue reading Prized astronomer continues to contribute

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)

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Tracing cosmic rays from radio pulses


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

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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SkyMapper’s 268-megapixel camera

On a mountaintop in northern New South Wales sits a new telescope equipped with Australia’s largest digital camera. The Australian National University’s (ANU) SkyMapper facility has been established at Siding Spring Observatory to conduct the most comprehensive optical survey yet of the southern sky.

Fully automated, the telescope is measuring the shape, brightness and spectral type of over a billion stars and galaxies, down to one million times fainter than the eye can see.


Continue reading SkyMapper’s 268-megapixel camera