Issue 16 / 5 October 2012
Computer models Tree Stars
Vials Fire test ASTER map
In Brief

Our newest radio telescope opens today


These are exciting times if you’re a radio astronomer, with our newest radio telescope, the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) being officially opened by Senator Chris Evans today.

Standing proudly in the West Australian desert, ASKAP is made up of 36 separate dish-like antennas and will start making detailed pictures of distant galaxies in 2013.

The telescope has been designed to be able to survey the whole sky extremely quickly with new technology developed and built by CSIRO —  a new kind of radio camera called a 'phased array feed'.

This gives the telescope a very wide field of view: 30 square degrees, or 150 times the area the full Moon takes up in the sky, is visible in a single snapshot.

October 5 marks the official opening not only of ASKAP, but also of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) where ASKAP is located.

The MRO is a superb site and ideal for radio astronomy because of the low-level of background radio signals.

Astronomers around the world are eagerly awaiting their chance to observe with ASKAP. With it, they hope to find answers to questions involving dark matter, dark energy, the nature of gravity, the origins of the first stars and galaxies, and more.

Over the coming years, existing ASKAP infrastructure will be built up to create an array of 96 dishes, and the MRO will be home to many thousands of low frequency receivers. These receivers will be part of the first phase of the future SKA, a giant radio-telescope project being implemented in both southern Africa and Australia.

Exciting times ahead.

Antony Schinckel, ASKAP Director

Watch the wonderful ASKAP time-lapse video here.

Today's official opening event will be webcast LIVE from midday WST, 2 pm EST. No login is required: the webcast is open to everyone and can be found here.

Follow the conversation on Twitter with #ASKAP.


Top of the news

Bath time's over for computer models

Crash test cow

After more than a decade's work in computer algorithms and supercomputers, we believe it’s time for models of tsunamis and storm surges to get out of the bath.

Our fluids modeller Dr Mahesh Prakash argues that more realistic models are needed for infrastructure planners and emergency managers to better prepare for disasters.

He said his team’s maths-based models are more true-to-life than the standard ‘bathtub’ models and that CSIRO leads the world in this area of fluids modelling.

Watch a hypothetical tsunami off the coast of Fremantle or read more about our work here.

A quantum step towards Hendra detection


Our scientists, in collaboration with researchers at the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne, have developed a new method which could pave the way for a portable Hendra virus biosensor.

Current detection methods are mainly lab-based and require samples to be shipped to state or national testing labs.

Our tests have shown that this new method can deliver a positive or negative test result, under lab conditions, within 30 minutes.

More here.

Rethinking how to protect our landscape


A landmark study has found that climate change is likely to have a major impact on Australia’s plants, animals and ecosystems that will present significant challenges to the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity.

“Climate change is likely to start to transform some of Australia’s natural landscapes by 2030,” lead researcher, Dr Michael Dunlop said.

“By 2070, the ecological impacts are likely to be very significant and widespread. Many of the environments our plants and animals currently exist in will disappear from the continent. Our grandchildren are likely to experience landscapes that are very different to the ones we have known.”

More here.

Our research scientist David Hilbert also wrote about how 'climate change will transform the bush' in this article for The Conversation.


Huff & puff but you can't burn this house down


You may remember that back in February we let straw and fire fight it out- and straw won.

We've been working with sustainable designer Joost Bakker on an environmentally friendly building option for bushfire-prone areas.

So after testing earlier this year, we're now building a house made with straw bale insulation and set into a recycled steel frame with magnesium oxide cladding. A unique type of construction- and it can withstand temperatures of over 1000°C. Not your regular brick bungalow.

Watch us burn the house down, or read more about the construction, here.


The Business

We recently released a suite of mineral maps designed to help mining companies increase the efficiency and viability of their exploration efforts.

The world-first maps were generated from a ten-year archive of raw Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection (ASTER) data collected by NASA and the Japanese Government's Japan Space Systems.

Already our maps have led to the discovery of a gold deposit by Kentor Gold, a mid-tier gold company with advanced projects in Australia and the Kyrgyz Republic.

While it's too early to know the extent of the find, it is an excellent example of how we can come together with industry to get the most out of our technologies.

More here.

On The Record

As you may remember from last edition, our Chief Megan Clark launched our new foresight report, Our Future World.

It's been hugely popular and if you're not familiar with it you may want to take two minutes out to watch this animation. If you have a little more time then Megan's hour-long National Press Club address is also available to watch here.

One of the report authors, Stefan Hajkowicz, wrote a series of articles about the report for our blog. You can find them here.

Don't delay people- get reading and watching. 'Megatrends' is quite the buzzword at water coolers...
or so we hear.

Energy from the ocean could supply 11 per cent of Australia’s electricity demand by 2050. That is enough to power a city the size of Melbourne. 4 million people!

You may have heard these facts in recent times after the release of our Ocean renewable energy: 2015-2020 report.

Research scientist Jenny Hayward goes into some detail of what this all means in this blog post.



Only female mosquitoes bite people. They need human blood to develop fertile eggs.

Get more #4oclockfact

LineOur People
Dr Jim Peacock

Leading the way

A big congrats to CSIRO plant scientist and former Australian Chief Scientist Dr Jim Peacock who was named recipient of the 2012 Rabobank Leadership Award.

Dr Peacock headed our Plant Industry division for 26 years and pioneered research which led to numerous advances benefiting global agriculture.

More here.

Dr Peacock is currently a CSIRO Fellow and Chair, OCE Science Team.

Matthew Hill

Rewarding our stars

Heard of the CSIRO Awards? Every year since 1985 we take some time out to celebrate some of our most outstanding achievements- and most importantly the people behind them.

This year's ceremony took place on Wednesday and while there are too many winners to list here, we did want to put the spotlight on a few:

More here.

A Quick Aside

Solar blog hits 100th post

There's no doubt about it, solar energy is hot, hot, hot (ha!).

Did you know that concentrating solar power could provide about 30 per cent of Australia's electricitiy? Or that we've found a way to manage solar intermittency (that is, the effect of passing clouds on solar generators)? Or have you ever thought about what bird poo may have in common with the colour of sunlight?

Our Solar @ CSIRO blog covers all these subjects with great pics and videos to boot. They've just posted their 100th blog- and made a solar cell to celebrate.

It really is worth a look. Bookmark the link because over the next few weeks Tania will be posting 100 solar facts from CSIRO- they're sure to get you hot under the collar (ha!).

Don't Miss It

The GE ecomagination Challenge is on

It doesn't matter if you're a small business owner or a student, if you have an idea on how we could reduce our carbon footprint then you could win one of five cash awards of $100,000.

On top of this there are potential investment opportunities of up to $10 million from GE and its partners.

Entries close on 30th November so get your thinking caps on and get submitting.

Feeling Social?

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