Construction has begun on CSIRO's new facility to support the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia. CSIRO awarded the contract for construction of the Murchison Support Facility (MSF) to Merym Pty Ltd (trading as EMCO Building) following a public tender process.
The MSF will be located within the Geraldton University Centre. It will provide remote operations services for CSIRO's Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope and other international projects currently being constructed at the MRO site, and office space for technical, maintenance and research staff. It will also feature a dedicated room for Geraldton-based researchers who have been awarded computing time on iVEC's Pawsey Centre supercomputers.
"The Murchison Support Facility is an essential element in supporting the MRO as one of the best sites in the world for radio astronomy," says Ant Schinckel, CSIRO's ASKAP Project Director.
"It will allow us to minimize the staff and equipment needed at the actual Observatory, helping preserve the superbly radio quiet nature of the MRO."
High-speed internet connections are already in place to link the MSF with the MRO (370km to the northeast of Geraldton) and the Pawsey Centre in Perth (450km to the south of Geraldton). CSIRO installed the optical fibre connection between Geraldton and the MRO as an integral part of the MRO development, while the Geraldton–Perth link is part of the National Broadband Network. AARNet is also playing a key role in providing data communications services from the MRO to the Pawsey Centre.
The MRO, in addition to hosting ASKAP and other astronomy activities, is Australia and New Zealand's candidate core site for the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope. Australia and New Zealand, and a consortium of nine African countries led by South Africa, have been shortlisted as possible sites for the location of the SKA. A decision on the SKA site is expected soon.
EMCO is expected to complete construction of the new support facility in November 2012. CSIRO's office in Geraldton is currently located at the Department of Agriculture & Food, Western Australia building at 20 Gregory Street.