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Mopra telescope – bushfire update (10:00 am Wednesday 16 January)

CSIRO staff from our observatory at Narrabri were able to access the control building of the Mopra telescope late yesterday (Tuesday) in the company of an RFS inspector.

This building contained an accommodation area, a control room and an equipment room containing the VLBI data correlator and the MOPS spectrometer.

The accommodation area has been severely damaged but the control room and equipment area have withstood the fire better, with few signs of internal damage.

Inside the equipment room there is smoke damage, but the equipment (including the MOPS spectrometer) itself appears to be intact, with no obvious damage from heat or fire. However, it has not yet been tested.

[Click "More information" link below for pictures.]

Staff did not enter a part of the building where an internal wall may now be bearing the weight of the concrete ceiling.

The telescope itself has no visible damage to the structure, but the drives have suffered some heat damage.

The receivers appear undamaged.

The cryogenic systems are still holding helium gas pressure, which suggests that they have not been damaged.

The high-voltage lines to the site, and the electrical transformer, have been damaged, but the power supply to the site has now been made safe.

The access road and the site are closed to the public.

The telescope is operated remotely from CSIRO's observatory near Narrabri, about 120 km away, and no staff were present when the fire went through.

The telescope, 22 metres in diameter, is located just off Timor Road to the west of Coonabarabran, near a location called Mopra Rock. It is near to, but not at, Siding Spring Observatory, which was also damaged by fire on Sunday (13 January).

The Mopra telescope is used mainly to study the chemistry of objects in space, particularly the various molecules found in star-forming regions in our Galaxy. It is also often linked with other telescopes across the country to make very detailed studi

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Added by Lou Morrissey, mob. 0419 168 940 on 2013-01-17

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