25Apr2012

Australia-New Zealand Square Kilometre Array… In Business For Astrophysics

The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in the MRO. Credit: Dr Natasha Hurley Walker, ICRAR.

Located in the wilds of Western Australia, the CSIRO Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory (MRO) has been selected by Australia and New Zealand to the the home of the high-density core of the multi-billion dollar Square Kilometer Array (SKA).Led by the International Centre for Radio AstronomyResearch at Curtin University, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is already hard at work and producing results.

This cutting-edge research will be revealed at an international conference in the UK this week.

MWA Project Director, Professor Steven Tingay comments, “The MWA is just starting to come online but is already producing world-class research, due to the extraordinarily high quality of the MRO as a location for ultra-sensitive radio telescopes.”

Professor Tingay also added that a crucial part of the MWA research is the need to operate in a location absent from radio interference generated by terrestrial sources. FM radio stations, mobile phones, cars and even factories can produce a huge amount of interference which effectively masks any faint radio signals from distant sources throughout the Universe.

“For this reason, the MWA has been constructed at the MRO, where the level of interference is much lower than most other observatory locations around the world. An indication of the MRO site’s pristine conditions is the amount of data that is lost due to interference. At the MRO this is less than 1%, compared to close to 100% at some other observatory locations around the world,” said Tingay.

The estimated time for Murchison Widefield Array to be completed is November 2012, but thanks to the outstanding quality of “radio quiet” in its location, it’s already producing research grade results in its current configuration. Utilizing an image of an area 20,000 times larger than the full Moon, astronomers from MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts are already searching for some of the very first stars and galaxies to form after the Big Bang. According to scientists from the University of Washington, the MWA is up to the task of picking up these ancient signals.

But that’s not all. Look for a torrent of astrophysics research papers to appear using information gathered from the MWA. They’ve been studying solar activity, bouncing signals off the Moon and even conduct surveys for variable quasars. Stay tuned to the radio… Because there’s lots more to come! Cr: Tammy Plotner for Astro Space News

Original Story Source: International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research News Release.

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