Three antennas of the ATCA point skyward under a full moon.

The Australia Telescope Compact Array is one of the world’s premier radio astronomy facilities.

Narrabri: Culgoora, NSW (Australia Telescope Compact Array)

CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array is one of the world’s leading radio telescopes.

  • 1 November 2007 | Updated 18 June 2013

The Australia Telescope Compact Array is one of the world’s most advanced radio telescopes.

It is located at the Paul Wild Observatory, 25 kilometres from Narrabri, New South Wales, Australia, and was opened in 1988.

It has a visitors centre open to the public.

Operations

Each of the Compact Array dishes is 22 metres in diameter.

The dishes sit on wide-gauge rail track, which allows them to be moved to different positions.

Taking observations with the antennas in different positions helps astronomers to build up a good, detailed picture of the objects they are studying.

This kind of telescope, in which signals from different antennas are combined, is called an interferometer.

This technique can provide more detail than a single large dish.

The telescope operates twenty-four hours per day, every day of the year.

About 200 astronomers come to the observatory each year to use the telescope.

A small number make their observations by operating the telescope remotely, via the Internet.

Most observing time (50-80 per cent) is allocated to observers outside CSIRO, from Australia and oversea.

Forty observatory staff support the visiting observers and the telescope’s operations.

The telescope operates twenty-four hours per day, every day of the year.

The Compact Array’s 'sister' telescopes, also operated by CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility, are:

  • the 64 metre Parkes radio telescope near Parkes, NSW
  • the 22 metre Mopra telescope near Coonabarabran, NSW.

Research

The Australia Telescope Compact Array is one of the world’s most advanced radio telescopes.

The Compact Array is used for more than 100 different observing projects each year. The subjects studied include:

  • early stages of star formation, and the late stages of the lives of stars
  • molecules in space
  • supernovae (exploding stars) and supernova remnants (the radio-emitting debris left by the explosions)
  • magnetic fields in galaxies
  • radio-emitting jets of material from black holes
  • how hydrogen gas (the raw material for stars) is distributed in the local universe.

The Paul Wild Observatory

The observatory is named after Dr John Paul Wild, who was:

  • Chief of the CSIRO Division of Radiophysics, 1971-78
  • Chairman of CSIRO, 1978-85.

In addition to the Compact Array, the observatory is also home to the:

  • Sydney University Stellar Interferometer (SUSI)
  • instruments of IPS Radio and Space Services
  • Birmingham Solar Oscillation Network (BiSON) telescope.

Older buildings and instruments no longer used are the:

  • CSIRO Applied Physics solar telescope
  • CSIRO Culgoora Radioheliograph.

Visitors centre

The public is welcome to visit and see both the telescope’s dishes and astronomy exhibits in and around the observatory visitors centre.


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Learn more about the technology that makes the Super-fast chips boost telescope’s power.