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18th of February 2022
The beating heart of ASKAP
by Emil Lenc and Vanessa Moss
The animation above shows the regions of the sky observed with ASKAP (Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder) during the RACS-high observations (Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey, high frequency band). The entire survey, consisting of 1493 fields, was completed in just over 7 weeks (including various maintenance periods and other ongoing Pilot Phase II observations). During this period RACS observations used approximately 16 days of total telescope time. The dynamic scheduling software (SAURON - Scheduling Autonomously Under Reactive Observational Needs) keeps an ever watchful eye on the telescope and schedules RACS fields when they are highest in the sky whilst avoiding the Sun and Moon (these can affect observations when nearby and so are best avoided) and taking into account other environmental or system constraints. This mode of observing means that fields are generally tracked from right to left in the animation. Apart from observing the RACS fields, every day or two SAURON will observe a calibrator source to the south to ensure the data obtained from the telescope is reliable - this gives the appearance of a heart beat in the animation (the small yellow and purple disks show the position of the Sun and Moon, respectively). The completion of RACS-high marks the third time that ASKAP has observed the entire sky visible from the southern hemisphere (the first two were for RACS-low and RACS-mid). Each is observed in a different ASKAP frequency band and once processing of the observations is complete it will be the radio equivalent of observing in three colours - the different colours seen by the telescope will aid in highlighting different physical processes at play in the objects detected by RACS.

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