SKA Telescope Boolardy Station, Murchison - A win for Western Australia

Submitted: Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 00:42
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The news just out says Australia and New Zealand, and South Africa will share in the Square Kilometre Array.

It's going to get a bit busier in the Murchison.

Australia to share in worlds largest telescope

Researchers at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) are celebrating today after hearing that Australia will share in hosting the world’s largest telescope – the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The SKA will now be shared between sites in Australia-New Zealand and South Africa. Click to enlarge.
ICRAR – a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia – has been working towards the $2 billion SKA since its launch in 2009.

“We’ve been working very hard to make SKA a reality and we’re glad to see the project reach this major milestone. ICRAR is looking forward to taking part in the next stage of the SKA through our expertise in Engineering, Information Technology and Astronomy,” says ICRAR Director Professor Peter Quinn.

Two candidate sites have been bidding to host the SKA, one in Southern Africa and one in Australia and New Zealand, since 2005. It was announced earlier today by the International SKA Organisation that the SKA would be split between both sites.

Professor Quinn said sharing the SKA between Africa and Australia allows the project to benefit from the best of both sites, building on the substantial investment in infrastructure and expertise that already exists in both locations.

The new plan to share the SKA will see Australia’s Mid West hosting two key components of the telescope – a group of dishes equipped with Australian-designed multi-pixel radio cameras and the ‘Aperture Array’ portion, made up of innovative non-moving antennas designed to collect lower frequency radio waves from the whole sky.

This part of the SKA will be optimised to survey large portions of the sky quickly, a particular strength of Australian astronomy.

South Africa will host a complementary group of dish-shaped telescopes designed to observe smaller sections of the sky in more detail, following up on regions of interest discovered using the survey portion.

“This model for splitting the SKA closely follows the workings of other observatories around the world; often separate instruments will survey the sky and inform where another telescope should look closer,” says Professor Quinn.

The divide also plays to the strengths of each country’s site, relying on Australia’s expertise developed during the design and construction of radio astronomy survey instruments, such as the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) and the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA).

ICRAR's Curtin University node is the Lead Organisation of the MWA, the only low-frequency Precursor to the SKA, and as a founding member of the predominantly European ‘Aperture Array Design and Construction’ consortium, ICRAR is applying its expertise to the SKA’s new-generation Aperture Arrays.

“Curtin University is proud to be involved in the SKA project through our joint venture partnership in ICRAR. In particular, we are pleased that our early initiatives in the Aperture Array domain and towards the MWA have proved important in bringing the SKA to Australia. We congratulate everyone involved in the decision, and look forward to the future of this inspiring project,” says Curtin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeanette Hacket.

ICRAR’s node at The University of Western Australia has been working with international institutions to cost and develop a design for the SKA’s extremely powerful computing systems.

The Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Australia, Professor Paul Johnson, said UWA welcomed the opportunity to play a key role in this historic quest to advance human knowledge of science and the Universe. “Hosting part of the Square Kilometre Array in Western Australia will enable researchers at ICRAR's UWA node to make a significant contribution to this ground breaking telescope project. Their work on high performance computing systems for astronomy and sky surveys will help lead a dramatic advance in international astronomy using new-generation telescopes around the world.”

Professor Quinn said that ICRAR is a world leader in survey science and technology in both radio and optical astronomy, and is looking forward to playing a major role in SKA surveys.

Due to the investment already present in both sites, a split SKA will be able to achieve its scientific goals without substantial added costs.

“Placing a major part of the SKA here shows international recognition of Australia’s strength in radio astronomy and the high quality radio-quiet site Australia has developed in WA’s Mid West,” says Professor Quinn.

It also recognises the significant investment made by the WA Government, the Australian Federal Government, CSIRO, and the ICRAR joint venture partners, to turn Western Australia into a hub for world-class science and engineering. Before the SKA starts observations in 2019, the MWA and ASKAP projects, together with iVEC’s new $80 million Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, and ICRAR itself, will produce excellent science on the path to the SKA.

“These global science endeavours will continue to benefit Western Australia and the international scientific community long into the future. The effort Australia and WA has made in infrastructure, legislation and policies will make the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory a significant centre for global science for decades to come,” says Professor Quinn.

“As an International centre, we’re eager to continue our work with colleagues in Africa and the rest of the world to build the SKA and use it to explore the Universe in 10,000 times more detail than ever before.”

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Reply By: Member - Boobook - Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 07:25

Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 07:25
While it is wonderful that Australia gets to participate in the SQA, there is unfortunately a lot of spin in the corporate and Australian articles today.

The above article says "The news just out says Australia and New Zealand, and South Africa will share in the Square Kilometre Array. "

The truth is that there are 3000 antennas. Of these 2870 will be built in Africa, 30 in NZ and there will be some added to CSIRO's existing SQA to make a total of about a 100 in Australia. There are already 36 there, so we get to build about 64 out of a the total 3000 we were shooting for. All the big dollar processing etc is in Africa.

It was described on the BBC last night as a small token gift to Australia to reward it for years of design and hard work.

I am sure it will benefit WA and Australia but only about 2% as much as it would have been if it were the other way around. The PR spin is out of control o thsi for some reason - What a surprise. This has been a loss dressed up as a win by bureaucrats.
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Follow Up By: Member - Boobook - Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 07:26

Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 07:26
Oops SKA not SQA
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Follow Up By: Member - Dirt Princess - Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 10:39

Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 10:39
Thanks for the information on what's coming up or into WA. It is always good to have a heads up and even more appreciated are the new things we can show our grandies to give them something higher in education to aim for. Such interesting things keeps their mind motivated to learn. So thanks Equinox. And thank you Boobook for keeping things in perspective for us. It's great to have all information.
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Follow Up By: equinox - Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 11:39

Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 11:39
Hi Boobook - It certainly wasn't the decision that anyone was expecting however it could easily have been a case of no prizes for second.

Not quite first prize however certainly better than nothing at all.


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Follow Up By: Member - Joe F (WA) - Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 13:08

Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 13:08
G'day Adventurers.

Yes indeed its a huge plus for Australia and the Science community, as the CSIRO and their partners, both government and commercial have been one hell of a lot busier out in the deep wilds of the Murchison than most people know.
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I had the absolute pleasure in seeing and learning about the deep space MRO project, first hand.

MRO. Murchison Research Observatory.
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The implications for mankind could be amazing, should the theory behind this deep space astronomy prove successful.

I am an absolute no body in connection to the MRO project but I can't help feel a little proud of their achievements so far and in all honesty, just being on the ground inside this history making project was a real buzz.

Thanks : Antony E.T. Schnickel ~ Barry Turner and all the eminent scientists who had faith in my driving abilities during our recent Murchison Adventure.

Although the MRO project was of great interest to me, the past history of the Murchison the Indigenous People and Pioneers gave me a real feeling for the region, its a shame I only got to feel the history of Wooleen Station as it was dark when I arrived at 21:00 and still quite dark when I left at 04:45 for Boolardy about an hour away by road.

Safe Travels :
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Follow Up By: Member - Joe F (WA) - Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 13:16

Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 13:16
G'day again

OOPS !! my Telstra mobile internet ~ dodad thingyma-jigg ~ is nearly a slow as ExplorOz and now I've up loaded my response twice ~ sorry.

Maria and I are in Perth at the moment and with all the technology available these days it can still be a pain in the proverbial.

Safe Travels :
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Reply By: Ron N - Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 23:57

Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 23:57
This post has been read by the moderation team and has been moderated due to a breach of The Inappropriate Rule .

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