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First promising observations from ASKAP

A 12-hour observation of an ASKAP test field showing a number of distant galaxies (the white dots), with the Moon shown to scale. The circles indicate the nine overlapping 'beams' (regions of sky the telescope 'sees') from which the image was created. Image: Ian Heywood and the ACES team/CSIRO

A 12-hour observation of an ASKAP test field showing a number of distant galaxies (the white dots), with the Moon shown to scale. The circles indicate the nine overlapping ‘beams’ (regions of sky the telescope ‘sees’) from which the image was created. Image: Ian Heywood and the ACES team/CSIRO

10 June 2014, SKA Science Conference, Giardini Naxos, Italy – Some might say that today, a new telescope was born. At the Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array conference held in June 8-13 in Giardini Naxos, Italy, a team of Australian scientists announced engineering test observations conducted with ASKAP that show very early science with the partial telescope may already be possible.

It may look like just dots on a page, but an image of distant galaxies taken last week represents a huge step forward for CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope.

 

 

The news announced today confirms that the technology being pursued by CSIRO is very promising, and that key aspects of the telescope such as its 3 axis movement are operating successfully.

“This is very exciting news” commented the SKA Director-General Philip Diamond immediately after the announcement. “It’s great to see ASKAP delivering such quality observations already, and is very promising for the future of the telescope, and for SKA obviously.”

Antennas of CSIRO's ASKAP telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia.

Antennas of CSIRO’s ASKAP telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia.

ASKAP, one of the three SKA precursor telescopes, is currently being commissioned. It is using 6 antennas (out of the total of 36) in a test array called BETA. This test array is equipped with Phased Array Feed (PAF) receivers, a new technology being developed at CSIRO equivalent to “radio cameras”, providing a uniquely large field-of-view to image large swaths of the sky at the same time.

The image that was taken just last week shows that even in this partial configuration, ASKAP is now working as a fully fledged radio telescope. In fact, even at this early stage, ASKAP was able to make the new image twice as fast as any comparable telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. 

“These ASKAP results are generating great excitement across the SKA community, because they clearly demonstrate the revolutionary potential of CSIRO’s new phased array feed technology,” Chief of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science Dr Lewis Ball said. 

The image covers 10 square degrees on the sky — 50 times larger than the full Moon — and was made from nine overlapping regions ( called ‘beams’) captured simultaneously. 

Full release on CSIRO’s website.

Read the ASKAP update for more details.

Announcement from the Australian Minister for Industry.