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Big honour for scientists' big pictures of a big Universe

CSIRO's ASKAP radio telescope team is the winner of the Astronomical Society of Australia's Peter McGregor Prize 2022 for innovation in astronomical instrumentation.

The ASKAP team created a new kind of receiver, backed by computing power, to broaden our understanding of the Universe by broadening our view of it.

ASKAP is the fastest radio telescope in the world. With a 30-square-degree field of view for each dish it can take panoramic snapshots more than 100 times the size of the full Moon.

Each of the 36 dishes is equipped with a phased array feed with 188 individual receivers in a chequerboard arrangement.

Working together, these arrays capture so much data that the CSIRO team needed to develop powerful computing technologies to process the imagery in real time and avoid a massive data backlog.

The Prize recognises the efforts of more than 100 engineers and researchers including the ASKAP Project Scientists over the years: Ilana Feain, Lisa Harvey-Smith and today, Aidan Hotan.

Aidan says: "Past telescopes have told us a lot about individual objects and galaxies in space, but it's hard to piece together how these objects fit with each other on the scale of the entire Universe. ASKAP provides that big picture."

The ASKAP team received one of five awards made by the Astronomical Society of Australia. The other winners are:

- University of Sydney student Maria Djuric for research that shows our Milky Way may just have two arms.
- ICRAR astrophysicist Adelle Goodwin from Monash University and Curtin University who predicted and observed a rare X-ray blast a thousand times brighter than the Sun.
- Curtin University/ICRAR radio astronomer Natasha Hurley-Walker whose visualisation work showed thousands of black holes pictured in colour.
- University of Western Australia/ICRAR theoretical astrophysicist Adam Stevens who used a supercomputer to manipulate the laws of the Universe.

"Australian astronomers are among the best in the world, and the breadth of these prestigious awards shows why we lead the world in so many areas. It is a pleasure to recognise these examples of individual brilliance, as well as teamwork, and technical innovation," says Astronomical Society of Australia President Professor John Lattanzio.

The Society will honour the five winners at its Annual Scientific Meeting in Hobart 27 June - 1 July.

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Added by Gabby Russell on 2022-06-20

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