From icrar: “Australian Desert Telescope Views Sky in Radio Technicolor”

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International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

10.28.16

Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker (Curtin University, ICRAR)
E: nhw@icrar.org
M: +61 426 192 677

Associate Professor Randall Wayth (Curtin University, ICRAR, CAASTRO)
E: randall.wayth@icrar.org
M: +61 418 282 359

Pete Wheeler, Media Contact, ICRAR
E: pete.wheeler@icrar.org
M: +61 423 982 018

Tamara Hunter, Media Contact, Curtin University
E: tamara.hunter@curtin.edu.au
M: +61 (08) 9266 3353

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A ‘radio colour’ view of the sky above a ‘tile’ of the Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope, located in outback Western Australia. The Milky Way is visible as a band across the sky and the dots beyond are some of the 300,000 galaxies observed by the telescope for the GLEAM survey. Red indicates the lowest frequencies, green the middle frequencies and blue the highest frequencies. Credit: Radio image by Natasha Hurley-Walker (ICRAR/Curtin) and the GLEAM Team. MWA tile and landscape by Dr John Goldsmith / Celestial Visions.

A telescope located deep in the West Australian outback has shown what the Universe would look like if human eyes could see radio waves.

Published today in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the GaLactic and Extragalactic All-sky MWA, or ‘GLEAM’ survey, has produced a catalogue of 300,000 galaxies observed by the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a $50 million radio telescope located at a remote site northeast of Geraldton.

Lead author Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker, from Curtin University and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), said this is the first radio survey to image the sky in such amazing technicolour.

“The human eye sees by comparing brightness in three different primary colours – red, green and blue,” Dr Hurley-Walker said.

“GLEAM does rather better than that, viewing the sky in 20 primary colours.

“That’s much better than we humans can manage, and it even beats the very best in the animal kingdom, the mantis shrimp, which can see 12 different primary colours,” she said.

GLEAM is a large-scale, high-resolution survey of the radio sky observed at frequencies from 70 to 230 MHz, observing radio waves that have been travelling through space—some for billions of years.

“Our team are using this survey to find out what happens when clusters of galaxies collide,” Dr Hurley-Walker said.

“We’re also able to see the remnants of explosions from the most ancient stars in our galaxy, and find the first and last gasps of supermassive black holes.”

MWA Director Associate Professor Randall Wayth, from Curtin University and ICRAR, said GLEAM is one of the biggest radio surveys of the sky ever assembled.

“The area surveyed is enormous,” he said. “Large sky surveys like this are extremely valuable to scientists and they’re used across many areas of astrophysics, often in ways the original researchers could never have imagined,” Associate Professor Wayth said.

Completing the GLEAM survey with the MWA is a big step on the path to SKA-low, the low frequency part of the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope to be built in Australia in the coming years.

SKA Square Kilometer Array

“It’s a significant achievement for the MWA telescope and the team of researchers that have worked on the GLEAM survey,” Associate Professor Wayth said.

The MWA

The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is a low frequency radio telescope located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia’s Mid West.

SKA Murchison Widefield Array, in Western Australia

The MWA observes radio waves with frequencies between 70 and 320 MHz and was the first of the three Square Kilometre Array (SKA) precursors to be completed.

A consortium of 13 partner institutions from four countries (Australia, USA, India and New Zealand) has financed the development, construction, commissioning and operations of the facility. Since commencing operations in mid 2013 the consortium has grown to include new partners from Canada and Japan.

Key science for the MWA ranges from the search for redshifted HI signals from the Epoch of Reionisation to wide-field searches for transient and variable objects (including pulsars and Fast Radio Bursts), wide-field Galactic and extra-galactic surveys, and solar and heliospheric science.

The SKA

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by SKA Organisation based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester, England. Co-located primarily in South Africa and Western Australia, the SKA will be a collection of hundreds of thousands of radio antennas with a combined collecting area equivalent to approximately one million square metres, or one square kilometre. The SKA will conduct transformational science to improve our understanding of the Universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.

See the full article here .

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ICRAR is an equal joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia with funding support from the State Government of Western Australia. The Centre’s headquarters are located at UWA, with research nodes at both UWA and the Curtin Institute for Radio Astronomy (CIRA).
ICRAR has strong support from the government of Australia and is working closely with industry and the astronomy community, including CSIRO and the Australian Telescope National Facility, iVEC, and the international SKA Project Office (SPO), based in the UK.

ICRAR is:

Playing a key role in the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, the world’s biggest ground-based telescope array.

SKA Square Kilometer Array
Attracting some of the world’s leading researchers in radio astronomy, who will also contribute to national and international scientific and technical programs for SKA and ASKAP.
Creating a collaborative environment for scientists and engineers to engage and work with industry to produce studies, prototypes and systems linked to the overall scientific success of the SKA, MWA and ASKAP.

SKA Murchison Widefield Array
A Small part of the Murchison Widefield Array

Enhancing Australia’s position in the international SKA program by contributing to the development process for the SKA in scientific, technological and operational areas.
Promoting scientific, technical, commercial and educational opportunities through public outreach, educational material, training students and collaborative developments with national and international educational organisations.
Establishing and maintaining a pool of emerging and top-level scientists and technologists in the disciplines related to radio astronomy through appointments and training.
Making world-class contributions to SKA science, with emphasis on the signature science themes associated with surveys for neutral hydrogen and variable (transient) radio sources.
Making world-class contributions to SKA capability with respect to developments in the areas of Data Intensive Science and support for the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory.