A world-leading telescope in its own right, our new ASKAP radio telescope is also allowing us to test technologies for the much larger Square Kilometre Array.
Made up of 36 antennas working together as a single instrument, our newest radio telescope – the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, or ASKAP – will capture radio images of the sky in more detail and faster than ever before. It will allow astronomers to answer fundamental questions about our Universe, such as the nature of cosmic magnetism and the evolution and formation of galaxies.
Where is ASKAP?
ASKAP is located at the CSIRO-run Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in the Mid West region of Western Australia. The observatory is remarkably ‘quiet’: it is relatively free of human-generated radio signals that would otherwise interfere with weak radio waves from space. Construction began in early 2010, and all 36 antennas and site infrastructure were completed in mid-2012. Installation of ASKAP’s complex receivers and electronic systems, as well as telescope commissioning, is currently underway.
Processing of the vast amounts of data generated by ASKAP is done at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth.
What makes ASKAP unique?
The design of ASKAP is unique among radio telescopes:
- It uses specialised receivers called ‘phased array feeds’ (rather than conventional receivers known as ‘single pixel feeds’) to detect and amplify radio waves, a development being pioneered by CSIRO especially for ASKAP, and
- Its antennas are able to move in three directions (unlike most other radio telescopes, which move in two directions) to capture high-quality images with its phased array feed receivers, and ensure the telescope can scan the whole sky.
These attributes mean that the telescope will survey large areas of sky with unprecedented sensitivity and speed.
Engaging with industry for ASKAP
Industry has played a crucial role in the development of ASKAP. For example, industry collaborations enabled significant progress on ASKAP’s computing architecture, low-noise amplifier design, and geo-exchange cooling systems.
ASKAP and the Square Kilometre Array
As well as carrying out cutting-edge science in its own right, ASKAP is allowing us to test revolutionary new technologies for the Square Kilometre Array – an international project to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.
ASKAP's home, the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, is also located in the same region as the Square Kilometre Array telescope infrastructure in Australia is to be centred. In its first phase, this infrastructure will include thousands of low-frequency dipole antennas in what is called an aperture array.
We acknowledge the Wajarri Yamatji people as the traditional owners of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory site.