Three antenna of ASKAP point into the starry sky

Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder

CSIRO's Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, known as ASKAP, is a radio telescope situated at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in the Murchison region of Western Australia, about 800 km north of Perth. ASKAP uses novel technology to achieve extremely high survey speed, making it one of the best instruments in the world for mapping the sky at radio wavelengths.

ASKAP is in the final pilot survey stages, before becoming fully operational in 2022. This website describes the technology, science and history of ASKAP, as well as technical references for astronomers interested in using ASKAP data. A broader overview of ASKAP and the ATNF can be found on the main CSIRO website.

Be sure to follow @CSIRO_ATNF on Twitter for exciting astronomy content, including that from ASKAP.

Current users of the ASKAP telescope can head to the Confluence page for policies, guides and team information.

 

What is ASKAP?

ASKAP is a synthesis array consisting of 36 dish antennas, each 12m in diameter, spread out in two dimensions with baselines up to 6km. This gives ASKAP excellent snapshot imaging capability and dense UV sampling. Each antenna is equipped with a phased array feed (PAF) that can be used to form 36 dual-polarisation primary beams, giving the telescope its wide field of view and rapid survey capability when coupled with high-speed digital processing systems and the supercomputing facilities at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth. 

A Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey (RACS) was commissioned in 2020 to test this capability. Approximately three million galaxies across the entire southern sky were mapped in a record-breaking 300 hours. One million of them had never been seen before. You can read more, and take the interactive tour, on CSIRO’s dedicated RACS page.

Each PAF comprises 188 individual receiving elements which are sensitive to radio waves with frequencies in the range 700 - 1,800 MHz. The feeds are mounted at the prime focus of each 12m antenna, yielding about a 30 square degree field of view per dish, some 30 times larger than possible with a traditional receiver. 

 

A flat red expanse of country, dotted with ASKAP antenna, with a blue sky above, graced with clouds

 

Why is ASKAP in Western Australia? 

ASKAP is located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO), approximately 315km northeast of Geraldton.

The MRO is ideal for radio astronomy as it exhibits excellent sky coverage, superb radio quietness, ionospheric stability and benign tropospheric conditions. The extremely low levels of radio-frequency interference will allow highly sensitive instruments such as ASKAP to conduct ground-breaking astronomy research.

This area makes up the Australian Radio Quiet Zone WA (ARQZWA), which was established to shield radio astronomy receivers from harmful interference. The ARQZWA is protected by the legislation, regulatory and policy instruments put in place by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and three protected zones managed by the Department of Mines and Petroleum in the WA government.

 

What is ASKAP up to?

Eight international science teams developed pilot survey projects that address goals related to understanding galaxy evolution, transient sources, polarisation, and magnetism, among others. These projects are well underway and are due to be completed in late 2021. These are all part of the initial phase for ASKAP, as the new and innovative technology is put to the test. Each step in this process is captured in our Countdown Clock, as we aim for full operational mode:

A circle is segmented into 9 stages. The first 7 are green for "complete"; 8 is purple for "just started" and 9 is blue for "not started"

 

ASKAP’s capabilities represent a big leap forward, so the surveys we are conducting have already made unexpected discoveries: about a million of the galaxies seen by RACS had never been observed before. Some other ground-breaking discoveries and technological innovations are:
•    Fast radio bursts (FRBs)
•    Odd radio circles (ORCs)
•    Intergalactic dust trails
•    Phased array feeds (PAFs)

To read more about the science research taking place at ASKAP, visit our Science page. More about the technologies involved in ASKAP is on our Technology page. A list of publications about ASKAP and its observations is available on the Publications page
 

For more information

Media: Rachel Rayner, ASKAP Communications Advisor
Science: Aidan Hotan, ASKAP Project Scientist

ASKAP is an SKA-precursor telescope situated at the MRO in Western Australia.
We acknowledge the Wajarri Yamatji as the traditional owners of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory site.

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