ASKAP spies spectral line for first time

ASKAP antennas at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory against a star-filled sky. Credit: Alex Cherney.

17 October 2013

ASKAP has made its first ever detection of a spectral line, using three ASKAP antennas at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia. The observation was performed remotely by CSIRO researchers based in the Science Operations Centre at the CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science Sydney headquarters.

Three ASKAP antennas, installed with ASKAP's first generation phased array feed (PAF) receivers, were used to observe the source S9 IAU, a cloud of neutral gas in our Galaxy often used as a calibrator for HI spectral line observations.

This successful detection follows the recent installation and commissioning tests performed using the ASKAP hardware correlator at the MRO. Six PAF receiver systems are now installed on ASKAP antennas at the MRO, forming the Boolardy Engineering Test Array (BETA), which is providing an excellent testbed for engineering and early science tests.

While testing of the spectral line capabilities with BETA is still at a preliminary stage, this observation demonstrates another step toward the successful end-to-end integration of the hardware correlator with the first three BETA antennas. Although there are many more tests to complete, the commissioning team is pleased to have made this important step towards the goal of producing spectral line image cubes with ASKAP.

This first ever detection of a spectral line with ASKAP is an exciting milestone given the importance of spectral line surveys in achieving ASKAP's science goals.

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