New receivers for ASKAP installed at MRO

Cabling work being performed on ASKAP antennas at the MRO. Credit: CSIRO

Two staff members working on a Mk II PAF receiver installed on ASKAP antennas. Credit: CSIRO

ASKAP antennas at the MRO, installed with two different generations of phased array feeds. Credit: CSIRO

13 August 2015

The first four production Mk II phased array feed (PAF) receivers have now been installed on ASKAP antennas at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia.

The second generation of ASKAP receivers is the result of ASKAP Design Enhancement (ADE) – an effort to increase the efficiency and performance of the PAF receivers, while improving manufacturability and making operational enhancements to the receiver design through the use of new technologies and assembly techniques.

Along with the four Mk II PAF receivers installed on ASKAP Antennas 2, 4, 5, and 12, stands the six Mk I PAFs that form the Boolardy Engineering Test Array (BETA), a functioning array being used for commissioning and already producing initial science results.

The installation is much more than attaching the PAFs to the antennas however, and follows months of site preparation, such as the connection of thousands of fibres and cables and the installation of firmware that forms the backend system support. This preparation has enabled the PAFs to be tested with the newly commissioned backends as soon as they were installed at the MRO.

For ASKAP, the transition to using the second generation PAF involves careful planning to prepare for Mk II commissioning, including consideration of new techniques, new functionality, and new challenges presented by the new technology.

“The is an incredibly important part of learning how to do astronomy with phased array feeds,” says ASKAP Project Director Ant Schinckel, “The name of the telescope has ‘Pathfinder’ at the end, and it should be remembered that not only is it a pathfinder for the Square Kilometre Array, but just as importantly it is a pathfinder for PAFs in astronomy.”

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