From Dunlap: “Major Upgrade Increases Power of Radio Telescope to Probe the Universe

Dunlap Institute bloc
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics

Nov 14, 2017

Prof. Bryan Gaensler, Director
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
University of Toronto

Chris Sasaki
Communications Coordinator | Press Officer
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
University of Toronto

SKA Murchison Widefield Array

The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a radio telescope in the outback of Western Australia, has completed a planned major upgrade, making it ten times more sensitive and doubling its ability to resolve detail.

Astronomers are using the MWA to make a detailed map of the entire southern radio sky. They are also using it to make observations of hydrogen gas from an epoch of the Universe when the first stars and galaxies were forming; study the Milky Way Galaxy’s magnetic field; and investigate radio sources like pulsars, X-ray binary stars and neutron stars.

“The original MWA opened our eyes to a new view of the radio sky,” says Prof. Bryan Gaensler, Director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Canadian representative on the MWA Board of Partners. “This upgrade greatly sharpens that view, and allows us to study in detail the new objects that the MWA discovered earlier.”

The MWA is one of four precursor telescopes for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) which, when completed in the mid-2020s, will be the largest radio telescope ever built.

SKA Square Kilometer Array

It will have a total collecting area of a square kilometre, with antennas located in Australia and South Africa. SKA will be a ground-breaking instrument which astronomers will use to conduct new tests of General Relativity, observe the very first stars and galaxies, and investigate dark energy and cosmic magnetism.

The MWA upgrade marks the completion of Phase Two in its development with the addition of 128 new antenna stations to the existing 128. Each station comprises 16 antennas for a total of over four thousand antennas arranged within an area with a diameter of roughly six kilometres.

The array is located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia and is operated by an international consortium led by Curtin University and which includes partners from Australia, India, New Zealand, China, the United States and Canada. The University of Toronto officially joined the consortium in June 2016

“The MWA is not only an amazing scientific facility in its own right,” says Gaensler, “but it is a vital stepping stone and test-bed for our even more ambitious plans for the SKA.”

Additional notes:
1) The Phase Two expansion of the MWA was partly funded by a $1 million grant as part of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) scheme. A further $1.2 million has been provided by partner institutions.

See the full article here .

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