Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder

Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder

Australian SKA Pathfinder
Antennas of the ASKAP telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia
Organization CSIRO
Location Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, Western Australia, Australia

The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, or ASKAP, is CSIRO’s new radio telescope currently being commissioned at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia. Construction on ASKAP began in late 2009 and was completed in 2012.[1]

ASKAP's combination of fast survey speed and high sensitivity will allow astronomers to answer some fundamental questions about the creation and early evolution of our Universe, and to test theories of cosmic magnetism and predictions from Einstein's general theory of relativity.[2]

ASKAP will also be an important technology demonstrator for the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, a future international radio telescope that will be the world's largest and most sensitive.[3] In addition, ASKAP's home, the MRO, was selected as the central site for major components of SKA telescope infrastructure in Australia. SKA telescope will also be deployed in southern Africa.[4]

The telescope was launched on 5 October 2012, becoming the world's fastest radio telescope.[5] Scientists hope to use information from the array to survey the universe including the mapping of black holes and to explore the origins of galaxies.[6]


  • Description 1
  • Design 2
  • Science 3
  • ASKAP Survey Science Projects 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Development and construction of ASKAP was led by CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS), in collaboration with scientists and engineers in The Netherlands, Canada and the USA, as well as colleagues from Australian universities and industry partners in China.[1]

Once commissioned, ASKAP will form part of CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility along with existing telescopes at Parkes, Narrabri and Mopra.[7]

The Wajarri Yamatji people are the traditional owners of the land on which the observatory lies.


External video
Watch a video of the first ASKAP antenna construction at the MRO in January 2010.

ASKAP is made up of 36 identical antennas, each 12 metres in diameter, working together as a single instrument to achieve a total collecting area of approximately 4,000 square metres. The construction and assembly of the dishes was completed in June 2012.[8]

The unique features that will make ASKAP an unprecedented synoptic telescope include a wide field-of-view, large spectral bandwidth, extremely fast survey speed, and excellent u-v coverage.[9]

ASKAP is located in the Murchison district in Western Australia, a region that is extremely "radio-quiet" due to the low population density and resultant lack of radio interference (generated by human activity) that would otherwise interfere with weak astronomical signals.[10]

The unique radio quiet nature is being recognised as a natural resource and is being protected by the Australian Commonwealth and Western Australia State Government through a range of protective regulatory measures.

Data from ASKAP will be transmitted from the MRO to a supercomputer at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth. The data will be converted to images of the sky in near-real-time by a pipeline processor running the purpose-built ASKAPsoft package.[11] All data will be placed in the public domain after being checked for quality by the ten ASKAP Survey Science Teams. Post processing will be supported by supercomputers operated by iVEC at the Pawsey Centre[12] in Perth, and may also be complemented by 'theSkyNet',[13] a "community computing initiative"[14] similar to Seti@home.


The array in 2010

During ASKAP's first five years of operation, at least 75% of its time will be used for large Survey Science Projects. ASKAP is expected to make substantial advances in key areas, including the following:[15]

  1. Galaxy formation and gas evolution in the nearby Universe through extragalactic HI surveys
  2. Evolution, formation and population of galaxies across cosmic time via high resolution, continuum surveys
  3. Characterisation of the radio transient sky through detection and monitoring (including VLBI) of transient and variable sources, and
  4. Evolution of magnetic fields in galaxies over cosmic time through polarisation surveys.

ASKAP Survey Science Projects

In 2009, after an open call for proposals, CSIRO announced that ten major science projects had been selected to use ASKAP.[16] Of the ten projects’ authors, 33% were from Australia and New Zealand, 30% from North America, 28% from Europe, and 9% from elsewhere in the world.

The ten ASKAP Survey Science Projects are:

  • COAST: Compact Objects with ASKAP: Surveys and Timing
  • CRAFT: The Commensal Real-time ASKAP Fast Transients survey
  • DINGO: Deep Investigations of Neutral Gas Origins[17]
  • EMU: Evolutionary Map of the Universe[18]
  • FLASH: The First Large Absorption Survey in HI[19]
  • GASKAP: The Galactic ASKAP Spectral Line Survey[20]
  • POSSUM: Polarization Sky Survey of the Universe's Magnetism[21]
  • VAST: An ASKAP Survey for Variables and Slow Transients[22]
  • VLBI: The High Resolution Components of ASKAP: Meeting the Long Baseline Specifications for the SKA
  • WALLABY: Widefield ASKAP L-Band Legacy All-Sky Blind Survey[23]

See also


  1. ^ a b "ASKAP Fast Facts" (PDF). CSIRO. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "ASKAP Science Update, Vol. 1" (PDF). CSIRO. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  3. ^ "SKA Factsheet for Journalists". SKA Project Development Office (SPDO). Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Report of the SKA Siting Options Working Group" (PDF). SKA Organisation. 14 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Fingas, Jon (5 October 2012). "Australia Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder goes live as the world's quickest radio telescope". Engadget. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  6. ^ Kebede, Rebekah. "World's fastest radio telescope starts up in Australian outback". Reuters. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "The Australia Telescope National Facility". CSIRO. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  8. ^ "ASKAP News". 18 June 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  9. ^ "Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory". CSIRO. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  10. ^ "World's biggest radio telescope, Square Kilometre Array". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "ASKAP Science Update, Vol. 5" (PDF). CSIRO. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  12. ^ "Pawsey Centre". iVEC. 14 June 2012. 
  13. ^ "theSkyNet Data". International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research. Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  14. ^ "theSkyNet comes alive". Australia and New Zealand SKA project (anzSKA). Australian  
  15. ^ "ASKAP Science". CSIRO. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  16. ^ "CSIRO sets science path for new telescope". CSIRO. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  17. ^ "DINGO". Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  18. ^ "EMU: Evolutionary Map of the Universe". 7 November 2008. Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  19. ^ "Sydney Institute for Astronomy – The University of Sydney". 15 September 2011. Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  20. ^ "GASKAP". Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  21. ^ "ASKAP POSSUM – Home Page". 24 August 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  22. ^ "VAST: Variables and Slow Transients: Main – Home Page browse". Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  23. ^ "WALLABY – the ASKAP HI All-Sky Survey". Retrieved 2013-01-18. 

External links

  • Official website
  • CSIRO homepage
  • Australia and New Zealand SKA (anzSKA) project website
  • International SKA website
  • The Pawsey Centre