Parkes radio-telescope gets an upgrade
Joint venture receiver boosts 50-year-old facility’s abilities.
Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO, has installed a specialised receiver on the Parkes radio-telescope in the state of New South Wales to enable astronomers to better “hear” the din emitted by the cosmos, widening the horizons of what they can observe.
The device will allow scientists to hear the celestial symphony in its entirety, rather than as isolated snippets of sound. Radio-waves captured will be converted into discernable electrical signals and imagery for astronomers to study in more detail.
This $2.5 million receiver was built in conjunction with engineers from Swinburne University of Technology, based in Melbourne, Australia, and sponsored by the Australian Research Council, Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The gadget can capture and identify radio frequencies between 700MHz and 4GHz – a much wider range that its predecessors. The multi-tasking receiver is able to run various projects simultaneously, including searching for gravitational waves emitted by black holes, mapping magnetic fields of the Milky Way, and studying neutron stars.
The new instrument is part of the regular refurbishment of the telescope, to keep at the forefront of astronomical discovery. The Parkes instrument is one of three that make up the Australia Telescope National Facility. It has been operational for five decades.
It has aided in discovering the nature of quasars — quasi-stellar radio sources — the highly luminous bodies that occur at the centre of galaxies, and was instrumental in discovering a spiral shape of the Milky Way.
It is a key element of NASA’s mission control infrastructure – role that was commemorated in the 2000 comedy movie starring Sam Neill, The Dish.