Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory

CSIRO has recently established the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in the remote Mid West region of Western Australia.

The MRO is home to CSIRO's new Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope. In addition to ASKAP, a wide-field, low-frequency dipole array — the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) [external link] — is located at the MRO. The MWA is an international collaboration between intitutions in the US, Australia, New Zealand and India.

The MRO has also been selected as the central site for major components of SKA telescope infrastructure in Australia; SKA telescope infrastructure will also be deployed in southern Africa.

We acknowledge the Wajarri Yamatji people as the traditional owners of the MRO site.

Why such a remote location?

The MRO is ideal for radio astronomy as it exhibits excellent sky coverage, superb radio quietness, ionospheric stability and benign tropospheric conditions. The extremely low levels of radio-frequency interference will allow highly sensitive instruments such as ASKAP, the MWA and potentially the SKA, to conduct ground-breaking astronomy research.

Radio-Quiet Zone

The MRO site is situated within the area protected for radio astronomy by Section 19 of the WA Mining Act and a WA-managed Radio Telescope Mineral Resource Management Area.

On 21 September 2007 the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) issued a new Radiocommunications Assignment and Licensing Instruction (RALI) [300kB PDF] to establish a radio-quiet zone over the site.

In July 2011, the ACMA announced enhanced measures for the protection of the Mid West Radio-quiet Zone (RQZ) to further support the development of the MRO.

A new Frequency Band Plan [external link] now provides greater legislative certainty for levels of technical protection and extends the frequency range of the Mid West RQZ. The Band Plan extends to 150km radius, as for the previous Embargo, and a new inner zone of 70km radius has been created, within which radio astronomy is the primary service. The Mid West RQZ coordination zone still extends to 260km radius via the ACMA RALI MS 32 introduced in 2007.

The ACMA measures adequately protect the Radio-Quiet Zone for radio astronomy, while not placing an unacceptable burden on surrounding activities. CSIRO has worked closely with the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments to establish the MRO.

Supporting the MRO

CSIRO staff that support the development and operation of the MRO are based at the Murchison Support Facility in Geraldton, 370km to the southwest of MRO.

See the Visitors Guide to the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory for further information on visiting the MRO.