Sunday, December 30, 2012

Radio Astronomy in Australia Radio Quiet Zone

CSIRO ASKAP 2010.jpg
CSIRO's ASKAP antennas at the MRO in Western Australia. (Credit: Ant Schinckel, CSIRO, )

Radio Astronomy in the Aussie Outback


The incredibly remote array of 36 radio antennas at Murchison in Western Australia, far from any source of interference, is officially known as the Australian SKA Pathfinder. Thanks to phased-array feeds, this interferometric array can observe a whole patch of the heavens at once.

It's not easy to get to the Murchison Radio Observatory in Western Australia — but that's a good thing.

Being in one of Western Australia's most remote regions, almost devoid of townships, roads, and people, means there's hardly any radio interference that might otherwise compromise the facility's cosmic observations. Whereas optical astronomers have to worry about light pollution, radio astronomers cherish the most radio-quiet zones on the planet. And Murchison is certainly one of them.

There's another reason why it's hard to get to MRO, which officially debuted on October 5th and is operated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), headquartered in distant Sydney. Because of the observatory's remoteness, and because of the extreme harsh environment, health and safety regulations for any visit there are very strict. So if you just happen to drive your 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser up to the gate, after a 150-km trip across unpaved desert roads, without having made proper arrangements with the Sydney office, there's little chance you'll be let in

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Source: Sky and Telescope Magazine.

More on the Murchison Radio-Astronomy Observatory:
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American National Radio Quiet Zone in eastern West Virginia and western Virginia:
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Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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