Tuesday, 24 April 2018 02:00

Upgrade as radio telescope examines origins of universe

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The federal government has launched phase two of the Murchison Widefield Array "world-leading” low frequency radio telescope located in the Murchison Radio Quiet Zone, in Western Australia, designed to examine the origins of the universe.

Jobs and Innovation Minister Senator Michaelia Cash said the launch marked a major upgrade to the telescope that brings Commonwealth investment in the project to $14.5 million.

She said the telescope has already collected huge volumes of astronomical data to inform scientific research since it began operations in 2013.

And according to Cash, the MWA’s upgrade capitalises on Western Australia’s pre-eminent competitive advantage in radioastronomy.

“The upgraded MWA gives Australian scientists a telescope ten times more powerful in its capacity to explore the universe. It confirms Australia’s place at the global centre of astronomy – reflected in the Turnbull Government’s commitment of nearly $300 million as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda,." she said.

Cash said the MWA was a crucial precursor to the Square Kilometre Array, a next-generation radio telescope that would be hosted jointly by Australia and South Africa.

“The SKA will be the largest and most advanced radio telescope ever constructed and will be used by scientists from around the world to make major discoveries about the universe. Lessons learned in building and operating the MWA are vital to delivering the SKA,” she said.

“These projects are also driving the development of new technologies, particularly in the field of big data management. This work is helping to expand Australian businesses and create jobs, in Western Australia and across the country.”

Monday’s launch of the MWA was held at Curtin University, which operates the facility on behalf of an international collaboration of 21 universities and research institutes from seven countries.

“I am delighted that the Phase Two upgrade has brought with it an expansion of the international partnership for the telescope from 14 to 21 institutions,” said Cash.

“With vast radio quiet areas and a thriving astronomy community, Australia is the ideal host for international projects such as the MWA and SKA.”

The MWA is located at the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory, about 350 kilometres north-east of Geraldton in Western Australia and will also be the site of the SKA.

As part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Australian Government has committed $294 million over 10 years to host the SKA, which Cash says will deliver significant economic, scientific and technological benefits.

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Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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