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  • richardmitnick 5:51 pm on April 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST), ,   

    From Swinburne: “Mysterious bursts of energy do come from outer space” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University

    1
    Artist’s impression shows three bright red flashes depicting fast radio bursts far beyond the Milky Way, appearing in the constellations Puppis and Hydra. Credit: James Josephides/Mike Dalley.

    3 April 2017
    Lea Kivivali
    +61 3 9214 5428
    lkivivali@swin.edu.au

    Fast Radio Bursts present one of modern astronomy’s greatest mysteries: what or who in the Universe is transmitting short bursts of radio energy across the cosmos?

    Manisha Caleb, a PhD candidate at Australian National University, Swinburne University of Technology and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), has confirmed that the mystery bursts of radio waves that astronomers have hunted for ten years really do come from outer space.

    Ms Caleb worked with Swinburne and University of Sydney colleagues to detect three of these Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) with the Molonglo radio telescope 40 km from Canberra.

    U Sidney Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST), Hoskinstown, Australia

    Discovered almost 10 years ago at CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope, Fast Radio Bursts are millisecond-duration intense pulses of radio light that appear to be coming from vast distances.

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    They are about a billion times more luminous than anything we have ever seen in our own Milky Way galaxy.

    One potential explanation of the mystery is that they weren’t really coming from outer space, but were some form of local interference tricking astronomers into searching for new theories of their ‘impossible’ radio energy.

    “Perhaps the most bizarre explanation for the FRBs is that they were alien transmissions,” says ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Matthew Bailes from Swinburne.

    “Conventional single dish radio telescopes have difficulty establishing that transmissions originate beyond the Earth’s atmosphere,” says Swinburne’s Dr Chris Flynn.

    Molonglo opens new window on the Universe

    In 2013 CAASTRO scientists and engineers realised that the Molonglo telescope’s unique architecture could place a minimum distance to the FRBs due to its enormous focal length. A massive re-engineering effort began, which is now opening a new window on the Universe.

    The Molonglo telescope has a huge collecting area (18,000 square metres) and a large field of view (eight square degrees on the sky), which makes it excellent for hunting for fast radio bursts.

    Ms Caleb’s project was to develop software to sift through the 1000 TB of data produced each day. Her work paid off with the three new FRB discoveries.

    “It is very exciting to see the University of Sydney’s Molonglo telescope making such important scientific discoveries by partnering with Swinburne’s expertise in supercomputing”, says Professor Anne Green of the University of Sydney.

    Thanks to further funding from the Australian Research Council the telescope will be improved even more to gain the ability to localise bursts to an individual galaxy.

    “Figuring out where the bursts come from is the key to understanding what makes them. Only one burst has been linked to a specific galaxy,” Ms Caleb says. “We expect Molonglo will do this for many more bursts.”

    A paper on the discovery ‘The first interferometric detections of Fast Radio Bursts’ has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. It is available online at https://arxiv.org/abs/1703.10173

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:05 am on February 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST), ,   

    From ScienceAlert via CAASTRO: “This 51-year-old telescope is searching 1,000 times a second for one of the rarest events in the Universe” 

    CAASTRO bloc

    CAASTRO ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics

    sciencealert bloc

    ScienceAlert

    20 FEB 2016
    JACINTA BOWLER

    Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST)

    How many scientific instruments built in 1965 are still alive, kicking, and making important discoveries today? Fifty-one years on, the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST) is not only one of the coolest-looking telescopes, but it’s now been upgraded to help astrophysicists discover some of the rarest events in the Universe.

    The largest radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere, MOST is nearly 1-kilometre long, and combines 7,744 individual radio antennae. That means it’s able to ‘listen’ to events occurring in the distant Universe, and back in the ‘60s, MOST discovered some of the most exciting objects in the Universe, such as pulsars. Now it has a new mission – to detect mysterious fast radio bursts, and other short-lived astrophysical phenomena by taking 1,000 photos every single second.

    Despite the telescope’s impressive track record, it wasn’t quite able to handle this new task in its original state. But it’s now been upgraded by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology to handle an impressive 22 gigabytes of data a second, enough to allow it to photograph the Universe every millisecond.

    The biggest change was the upgrade of the telescope’s outdated analogue technology. A team led by Matthew Bailes, from Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing has now written new software to improve data collection and processing.

    “The powerful supercomputer that Bailes and Swinburne have provided makes this an exceptional telescope for exploring the transient sky with fast and flexible cadence,” said Anne Green, an astrophysicist at The University of Sydney who was involved in the project. The new upgrade also installed new signal-processing computers, which are able to sift through all the data being produced.

    After a five-year hiatus, the telescope is now back up, but is only running at a quarter efficiency as the final touches are finished.

    Once all the software is online, the telescope will be attempting to observe fast radio bursts, flashes of bright radio energy that last only a few milliseconds. Only 15 of these events have been spotted since the first one was discovered 10 years ago, and no one is quite sure where they come from.

    “There are more theories than there are bursts,” Bailes said. “Some people think that they occur when two neutron stars collide, others think that neutron stars become unstable and collapse into a black hole and they give off little bursts of radio emission when they do it.”

    But there are also other hypothesises, including that they arise when a black hole and neutron star merge, or that they are an early warning signal of an impending supernova. Either way, MOST is aiming to discover enough information to piece it together.

    “The detection rate is a strong function of efficiency so we haven’t been running long enough to find a fast radio burst, but we’re hoping that soon we’ll be finding one every few weeks,” Bailes said.

    MOST will also be looking back into pulsars, as these spinning neutron stars can attract (excuse the pun) strange gravitational behaviour. “It’s fun when you find a pulsar that is spinning 700 times a second; that’s faster than a kitchen blender and yet it’s a star,” Bailes said. “Neutron stars are very tiny so they can get in very close proximity to each other, which means that they travel very quickly around each other and they allow us to test gravity in ways that we can’t normally do.”

    Investigating these pulsar pairs could even further the work done by the LIGO teams working on the newly detected gravitational waves. “These waves are mysterious and difficult to detect but they actually cause the orbit of the neutron star to shrink by one centimetre per day, which might not sound like much, but using the upgraded telescope we can measure the position of neutron stars so accurately that we can even begin to see that effect,” Bailes said.

    To put the power of the 51-year-old telescope into perspective, MOST can measure changes as small as 1 centimetre from an orbit halfway across the Galaxy, and can capture a millisecond-long radio burst from somewhere in the Universe. We’re very excited to see what else this old school telescope can discover next about the cosmos.

    Swinburne University of Technology is a sponsor of ScienceAlert. Find out more about their innovative research.

    See the full article here .

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    Astronomy is entering a golden age, in which we seek to understand the complete evolution of the Universe and its constituents. But the key unsolved questions in astronomy demand entirely new approaches that require enormous data sets covering the entire sky.

    In the last few years, Australia has invested more than $400 million both in innovative wide-field telescopes and in the powerful computers needed to process the resulting torrents of data. Using these new tools, Australia now has the chance to establish itself at the vanguard of the upcoming information revolution centred on all-sky astrophysics.

    CAASTRO has assembled the world-class team who will now lead the flagship scientific experiments on these new wide-field facilities. We will deliver transformational new science by bringing together unique expertise in radio astronomy, optical astronomy, theoretical astrophysics and computation and by coupling all these capabilities to the powerful technology in which Australia has recently invested.

    PARTNER LINKS

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    The University of Western Australia
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  • richardmitnick 7:06 am on January 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST),   

    From Swinburne: “The Universe, one millisecond at a time” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University

    15 January 2016
    Jessica Hales
    +61 3 9214 8077
    jhales@swin.edu.au

    Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST)
    The Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST) is the largest radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere

    About thirty kilometres east of the Australian capital Canberra stands a telescope that will soon capture images of the cosmos’s most mysterious phenomena. The Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST), nestled in the Molonglo Valley, is the largest radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere and has been scanning the skies for nearly half a century.

    Now, the Australian astronomy community have ambitious plans to use this telescope to understand the ‘transient’ Universe, short-lived phenomena that can only be detected through frequent, regular radiofrequency surveys.

    But before this can happen, MOST needed to be brought into the 21st Century. After operating for fifty years — a lifetime for any piece of technology, especially one as complex and sensitive as a giant radio telescope — it desperately needed an upgrade, especially to its digital technology.

    While its basic structure would remain the same, the revamp to its operational infrastructure would make it capable of churning through the masses of data generated by these surveys.

    In 2012, the UTMOST project was conceived to achieve this goal when the telescope’s operators, The University of Sydney, joined forces with Swinburne University of Technology, the CSIRO, Australian National University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Matthew Bailes, an Australian Laureate Fellow at the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, took on the task of leading the upgrade of the telescope’s ageing processing system.

    1,320 gigabytes a minute

    When it was built in the 1960s, the Molonglo telescope discovered some of the most spectacular objects in our cosmos, such as the collapsed cores of once-massive stars, known as pulsars.

    Pulsars can be as small as 20 kilometres in diameter, and can spin at up to 700 times each second. Their distinctly pulsatile radiofrequency signature results from the acceleration of particles in their super-strong magnetic fields as they spin.

    “It’s fun when you find a pulsar that is spinning 700 times a second; that’s faster than a kitchen blender and yet it’s a star,” says Bailes.

    Precisely measuring the pulse rate of these celestial objects has revealed new insights into how gravity distorts the fabric of space-time.

    MOST’s long structure was built to overcome the design limitations imposed on parabolic dish telescopes, which can only get so big before they topple over. The telescope has two 800-metre-long half-cylinders stretching east to west. Along its two arms sit 7,744 individual radio antennae that combine their signals to create a concentrated radiofrequency beam.

    The upgrade kept this design, but called for a radical overhaul under the hood, installing new signal-processing computers that could sift through 22 gigabytes of data every second, or 1,320 gigabytes per minute.

    Early on, Bailes realised the upgrade couldn’t rely on existing analogue systems to combine the signals to form an image — it needed a system that could digitally combine all the signals together.

    “I realised that some of the technology we’d developed here at Swinburne could be adapted to do that,” says Bailes.

    Anne Green, a professor of astrophysics at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy, in The University of Sydney, says one of the major achievements of Bailes and his team has been to write new software for the telescope to improve data acquisition and signal processing. The upgrades will allow astronomers to observe a large area of the sky 1,000 times a second.

    “The powerful supercomputer that Bailes and Swinburne have provided makes this an exceptional telescope for exploring the transient sky with fast and flexible cadence,” says Green.

    In the astronomy world, Bailes’ supercomputer experience is highly sought after. In July 2015, he joined an international team awarded US$100 million to search for intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Bailes’ Australian team will design a new supercomputer at the Parkes telescope to analyse distant radio signals picked up by the search, which will be 50 times more sensitive than previous searches and cover ten times more sky.

    CSIRO Parkes Observatory
    Parkes Radio Telescope

    The project, administered by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, will scan the skies for signals of life as well as other naturally occurring astrophysical phenomena.

    1,000 snapshots a second

    After a five-year hiatus, MOST recently began scanning the skies again. One of its first priorities will be to observe fast radio bursts — very bright, millisecond-long flashes of radio energy first observed just ten years ago.

    Only around fifteen of these events have ever been observed by astronomers, some by Bailes and colleagues at Swinburne University. They appear to be happening outside our Galaxy, but no one really knows what causes them.

    “There are more theories than there are bursts,” Bailes says. “Some people think that they occur when two neutron stars collide, others think that neutron stars become unstable and collapse into a black hole and they give off little bursts of radio emission when they do it.”

    Temp 2
    PSR B1509-58
    When an image from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory of PSR B1509-58 — a spinning neutron star surrounded by a cloud of energetic particles –was released in 2009, it quickly gained attention because many saw a hand-like structure in the X-ray emission. In a new image of the system, X-rays from Chandra in gold are seen along with infrared data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope in red, green and blue. Pareidolia may strike again as some people report seeing a shape of a face in

    WISE’s infrared data. What do you see?

    NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, also took a picture of the neutron star nebula in 2014, using higher-energy X-rays than Chandra.

    NASA Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra

    NASA Wise Telescope
    NASA/WISE

    NASA NuSTAR
    NASA/NuSTAR

    PSR B1509-58 is about 17,000 light-years from Earth.
    JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the WISE mission for NASA. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.
    Date 22 October 2014, 06:18:26
    NASA/CXC/SAO (X-Ray); NASA/JPL-Caltech (Infrared)

    Other theories suggest that they arise when black holes and neutron stars merge, or as an early warning signal of an impending supernova. There is even the suggestion that these bursts might have something to do with the atmosphere of a star that makes them appear further away than they really are.

    Once every few weeks

    The upgraded Molonglo telescope isn’t yet fully operational, and is currently running at only a quarter of its efficiency. But Bailes is already excited about what might come when it reaches its full potential.

    “The detection rate is a strong function of efficiency so we haven’t been running long enough to find a fast radio burst, but we’re hoping that soon we’ll be finding one every few weeks.”

    The Molonglo telescope is also continuing its long tradition of contributing to the field of pulsar study. Bailes spends much of his time studying these spinning neutron stars as a kind of hot-house for strange gravitational behaviour.

    “Neutron stars are very tiny so they can get in very close proximity to each other, which means that they travel very quickly around each other and they allow us to test gravity in ways that we can’t normally do,” Bailes says.

    These rapidly waltzing pairs might even answer a puzzle left by [Albert] Einstein. The great physicist predicted the existence of a peculiar type of gravitational ‘radiation’ called gravitational waves — but no one has seen one yet. In theory, pulsar pairs should emit these waves. While astronomers can’t detect the waves themselves, they can detect the changes to the orbits of these spinning pairs as tiny amounts of energy carried off by the gravitational waves.

    “These waves are mysterious and difficult to detect but they actually cause the orbit of the neutron star to shrink by one centimetre per day, which might not sound like much, but using the upgraded telescope we can measure the position of neutron stars so accurately that we can even begin to see that effect.”

    Given the fundamental importance of this work, there’s little doubt it will be time well spent.

    Sharing data

    Measuring a one-centimetre change in orbit from halfway across the Galaxy, or capturing a millisecond-long burst of radiofrequency energy somewhere in the Universe, requires extraordinary technology that is only found at very few locations around the world.

    In recognition of UTMOST’s unique capabilities, the collaboration has elected to make all the data generated by the Molonglo telescope available instantly to researchers anywhere in the world, which represents a big shift in the way astronomers communicate with each other.

    “Usually what you do is you build a telescope and you keep all the data secret and you do a grand magic reveal at the end,” Bailes says.

    “But with these fast radio bursts, if we did that, by the time we gave people the information it would be worthless because the thing would have faded away so we decided we’d give away any event immediately.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
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