Latest ASKAP News


ASKAP software engineers solve telescope commissioning measurement mystery, February 2018

CSIRO software engineers have solved a mystery that astronomers have been puzzling over for more than a year - we now understand why ASKAP has been measuring incorrect positions for the radio sources detected in our images. Read more

WALLABY Survey Science Team (SST) - ASKAP commissioning odyssey, January 2018

The past 17 months of working with ASKAP has been quite the journey! WALLABY SST has taken 700 hours of Early Science data, over four fields and in this article Karen Lee-Waddell tells her story of the adventures in taking and processing this new and exciting data read more 


Awesome ASKAP Image, December 2017
ASKAP’s been 'moonlighting' in the media recently and featuring on the CSIRO Blog with the release of an awesome image of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). Highlighting ASKAP’s unrivalled speed and detail, the last time the SMC was imaged by a radio telescope, it took 320 pointings (by ATCA). In contrast, this new image was made in one shot – over three nights – using only 16 of ASKAP’s 36 receivers. Data from Parkes was added to pick up faint details. The new image reveals more gas around the edges of the galaxy and these features are more than three times smaller than we’ve seen before - enabling examination of the detailed interaction of the SMC and its neighbouring galaxies. The SMC is one of our nearest and smallest galactic neighbours - the bad news for this dwarf galaxy is that it's on track to be (eventually) gobbled up by the Milky Way - that's quite an appetite!

Astronomical excursion for Pia Wajarri School, November 2017   
As part of the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) between the Australian Government and the traditional owners of the Murchison Radio astronomy Observatory (MRO) site, CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science staff members Rob Hollow, Dr Shi Dai and Dr Zoe Taylor travelled to the remote Pia Wajarri Remote Community School and took the students and teachers on tour of ASKAP. Shi, a young astronomer, talked to the students about his career in astronomy and about how stars and galaxies form in the Universe.  Zoe talked about why she’s interested in software engineering and inspired the students talking about her work on the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope. Zoe also introduced coding to the students with Spheros (the programmable robot). Zoe and Rob used the Sphero robots to demonstrate coding and demonstarted how to write simple programs. The fun really "took-off" when Rob set up the alka-seltzer water rockets and a challenge to see whose could fly theirs the furthest. At the MRO, the students and teachers toured ASKAP and learnt about how the radio dish antennas operate. At the control building, CSIRO’s James Hannah was working on electronics boards and gave the young locals a close-up look at these high-tech components. They headed back to Pia via the MWA and the AAVS1 test array, where they heard all about the world’s biggest telescope, the Square Kilometre Array!

CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS) completes mechanical construction of ASKAP's 36 dish array in WA, November 2017
On Tuesday 21 November, our 36th phased array feed (PAF) receiver was installed on AK #29, marking the completion of the installation of all receivers for ASKAP-36! The innovative PAF receivers on each of ASKAP's 36 antennas enable a large simultaneous field of view at 1.4 GHz. Sixteen of the antennas also have complete digital back-end systems, enabling the delivering of exciting early science results. We expect the full 36-dish array to come online progressively throughout 2018.

Powering up in the outback, September 2017
Ah the Australian outback. Red dirt, bounding kangaroos and wide open spaces that seem to go on forever. Sure it’s a great place to explore that little slice of untouched Australia but it’s also the perfect place for our radio telescopes to explore the unknown Universe. It’s because of our southern hemisphere location and our ability to manage large, complex facilities with a high degree of reliability, that we’ve been involved in some iconic events, including the Moon landing, and the last hurrah of Cassini as it plummeted into Saturn.

Now we’re building a new generation of radio astronomy technology with ASKAP. ASKAP is made up of 36 dish antennas, working together as a single instrument. Each antenna is fitted with a special ‘camera’, the CSIRO-designed phased-array feed, that is made up of 188 individual receivers. You can think of it as a bit like a wide-angle lens allowing you to see more through a single viewpoint. ASKAP is the fastest radio telescope in the world for surveying the sky, taking panoramic snapshots more than 100 times the size of the full Moon. To take these snapshots, we had to build ASKAP in a remote location to reduce the chance of radio interference. Radio telescopes use extremely sensitive radio receivers designed to measure the very faint radio signals arriving from astronomical sources in space. But radio interference is part and parcel of modern society. Things like mobile phones, microwaves, radio and TV transmissions all use radio frequencies to work and therefore interrupt our view of the Universe. 

The problem with a nice, remote, radio-quiet place is how to power it. Poles and wires just aren’t built in these areas, so most remote radio astronomy sites rely on diesel power. But diesel can get expensive and comes with a sizeable carbon footprint. Ah huh! Renewable energy like solar or wind! Yes but, getting the most out of renewables means bringing in a battery to store the power, and battery electronics interfere with our radio silence too. But we’re CSIRO. We couldn’t let this challenge get the better of us! So we decided to see if any Australian companies could help us build a battery that could store the power generated by solar panels, but still meet our radio-quiet requirements and not interfere with the operation of our telescopes.

Field of solar panels in the West Australian outback

Our battery with a shield ensures we can make the most of the power captured from our 5280 solar panels.

Enter Energy Made Clean, or EMC, a small business based in Perth. Working closely with our engineers and scientists, EMC has built the world’s first solar storage system to run a remote radio astronomy site. They built a battery with a shield to ensure it doesn’t interfere with our radio telescopes, allowing us to store the power captured from our 5280 solar panels during the day and use it into the night, switching seamlessly between solar and diesel power as a backup. 

Our solar and lithium-ion battery combo has the potential to power more than 400 homes and save between 1700 and 2200 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. EMC’s growth through this project has now set them up to be competitive for global energy infrastructure tenders.

EMC grew from 10 to 50 employees and has already received a number of enquiries about shielding renewable generation systems. They’ve grown significantly in their company skill set – a very necessary one for them to develop and become a bigger company taking on more complex projects. John Davidson from EMC said “the engineering expertise we have developed will carry us into future projects – we are at world-class level now and able to deliver similar projects.” “The proactive approach by CSIRO in identifying how they can collaborate and allow SMEs to grow is refreshing,” he said. The ASKAP telescope is a precursor to an even bigger global project called the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The SKA is going to need three times more power than the ASKAP telescope so this setup might also allow us to power it with renewable energy too. Now we can get back to exploring the Universe.

A shipping container customised to shield the battery

The solution for storing our battery was to house all the high power electrical equipment in metallic shielded enclosures.

ASKAP telescope dishes in the remote Western Australian outback

ASKAP processing capabilities scaled up, August 2017
To address the growing needs of ASKAP and other telescopes hosted at the Murchison Radio Observatory, Pawsey Supercomputing Centre has commissioned a new storage system specifically for astronomical use. Read more

Ernie Dingo visits our outback astronomy observatory – in his beloved backyard, August 2017
We searched far and wide for a place in Australia to build a world class radio astronomy observatory. The location had to be remote and far from man-made radio interference, to ensure quietness for these instruments to detect radio waves travelling from billions of light years away. It also needed to be somewhere relatively accessible for construction and observatory management. We found the perfect spot in the Murchison area of Western Australia, 700 kilometres northeast of Perth and in traditional Wajarri Yamatji country. It’s now home to our new Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope (ASKAP) and the Murchison Widefield Array telescope (MWA) led by Curtin University. It’s also a future site for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) – the world’s largest and most ambitious international radio astronomy project ever realised. Wajarri Yamatji Elder and Australian TV personality Ernie Dingo was passing by recently, so we invited him in for a tour and a chat about the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO), situated on his ancestral and beloved homeland.

Mr Ernie Dingo and Ms Leonie Boddington, our Aboriginal Liaison Officer, under one of the ASKAP antennas at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory.

Mr Ernie Dingo and Ms Leonie Boddington, our Aboriginal Liaison Officer, under one of the ASKAP antennas at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory.

“This is where I come from [the Murchison], my home soil and I’m really glad the MRO is here to allow scientific visitors on Wajarri Yamatji ground. We are proud of our corner of the world, there are lots of secrets in the mid-west and it’s wonderful that this land has been adopted by scientists to unlock the secrets of the Universe.”

Telescopes at the MRO will provide astronomers with the capability to answer fundamental questions about our Universe, such as the nature of cosmic magnetism and the evolution and formation of galaxies. Ernie is excited by the potential the facility brings to the local and global community; “It will inspire young people and further this part of the world. The antennas have a relatively small impact on the land, which is good from my point of view,” he said. Many partners have come together to create an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) for the MRO to operate, and to ensure educational, social and economic benefits flow to the Wajarri Yamatji. The ILUA includes a cadetship program that runs for the life of the telescopes and our staff visit the remote Pia Community School as part of a mentoring program. We’ve co-created resources on Wajarri culture and the MRO. A new ILUA for the SKA will expand on these benefits. ASKAP’s 36 individual dish antennas spread out across a six kilometre area. In contrast to the rustic colours of the Australian outback, they’re bright white but Ernie says they fit in the landscape, like part of the furniture! “This is wildflower country and they’re like beautiful giant white wildflowers growing up out of the earth”. On his visit Ernie finds bushfood growing under the telescope and although he recognises the site is generally closed to visitors for radio quiet purposes. “I hope the scientists get a chance to stop and smell the flowers – there’s plenty of bush food out here and it’s the only place in the world where the wreath flower grows.”

CSIRO acknowledges the Wajarri Yamatji as the traditional custodians of the MRO site and gratefully acknowledge the important role the Wajarri Yamatji have played in enabling Australia to secure the rights to co-host the SKA.

ASKAP Early Science Data Release, July 2017
CSIRO has made the first public release of ASKAP early science data via CSIRO ASKAP Science Data Archive. We welcome opportunities to collaborate with and receive feedback from the science community. Enquiries can be directed to the ASKAP project scientist or the science team lead investigators. Read more

New Project Scientist for ASKAP, July 2017
ASKAP’s new Project Scientist, Dr Aidan Hotan, talks about his involvement in ASAKP and what the path to full science operations looks like to him. Read more

ASKAP Fast Radio Burst

ASKAP bursts onto the scene, May 2017
CSIRO's Australian Square Kilomtere Array Pathfinder radio telescope (ASKAP) has found its first ‘fast radio burst’ from space after less than four days of searching. The discovery came so quickly that the telescope looks set to become a world champion in this fiercely competitive area of astronomy. Read more


Australian researchers develop ultra-accurate SKA synchronisation tech, July 2016
Astronomical Verification trials of a critical SKA sub-system developed by Australian researchers have shown the frequency synchronisation technology to perform between 10 and 100 times better than the requirement for the SKA telescope. Read more

ASKAP2016: "the future is now!", June 2016
The ASKAP2016 conference has brought together the user community to plan key aspects of the ASKAP Early Science program, share cutting-edge results and discuss future strategies for observing and data sharing. Read more

Bird of paradise constellation sings a sweet song for ASKAP, April 2016
The first ever 36-beam image has been produced during phased array feed (PAF) commissioning activities for CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope. Read more

Maximising science impact of the SKA in Australia, April 2016
The second annual OzSKA meeting was held to discuss developments in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) – with a focus not only on astronomy, but also technological development and the evolution of the SKA Organisation itself. Read more

Parkes telescope granted status of 'SKA pathfinder', April 2016
CSIRO's iconic Parkes radio telescope has been granted the status of 'SKA pathfinder' by the Square Kilometre Array Organisation, on the basis of its role in testing innovation new receiver systems for radio astronomy. Read more

Getting busy with real data, March 2016
In preparation for the start of the ASKAP Early Science Program, the first ASKAP Community Busy Week was held this week at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy (SIfA). Read more

Egg-actly what you weren't expecting, March 2016
How one ASKAP Survey Science Project is using cloud computing for ‘machine learning’, to test novel techniques for data mining and source finding. Read more

Quiet up there, March 2016
A recent experiment by the ASKAP team has shown how astronomers can ‘disappear’ RFI from their observations using PAF receivers, a technique not possible with single-pixed feeds. Read more

LIGO makes waves, Australian telescopes follow up, March 2016
How ASKAP played a part in LIGO's hunt for gravitational waves, and showcased capabilities offered by the transient survey projects planned for the future. Read more

Bye bye, BETA, February 2016
A bittersweet milestone for ASKAP, as the Boolardy Engineering Test Array (BETA) is decommissioned. Read more

EU funding to support SKA infrastructure study, February 2016
The SKA Infrastructure Consortium received an important boost this week thanks to a grant under the EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. Read more

Bonn-bound PAF pops by Parkes, February 2016
ASKAP’s awarding winning receiver technology is about to branch out beyond Western Australia, heading first to Parkes and then to Germany. Read more

A bright start to the year for ASKAP's renewable energy, January 2016
The solar power station for CSIRO’s ASKAP telescope has been powering ahead at the MRO in Western Australia throughout January. Read more


2015: An ASKAP year to remember, December 2015
It is a time to reflect on the major achievements of the ASKAP project in 2015, thanks to the project team staff across Australia, those on the ground at the MRO, and also our international collaborators. Read more

New PAFs 'on the verge' of surpassing BETA, December 2015
Commissioning activities with ASKAP’s newest receivers have produced an image from ‘the most beams yet’, with early data indicating the performance of the Mk II systems may be on the verge of surpassing the BETA telescope. Read more

Supercomputing resources secured for ASKAP Early Science, December 2015
CSIRO has teamed up with leading scientists from the ASKAP early science projects to secure 600,000 core hours of processing time on the largest research supercomputer in the Southern Hemisphere. Read more

'Exotic pulsar' theories confirmed with BETA, December 2015
The latest paper to be published from ASKAP has used commissioning data to confirm theoretical predictions of an ‘exotic’ intermittent pulsar almost 6,000 light years away. Read more

ASKAP News Archive

For older news items (2009-2015), visit the ASKAP News Archive page.


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