A/NZ's SKA bid takes step forward

Australia and New Zealand’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope has taken a step forward with the successful trans-Tasman link-up of six radio telescopes to form one mega-telescope.

The clustered telescope, which is collaboration between CSIRO's Astronomy and Space Science division, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia, and AUT University in New Zealand, is capable of creating images 10 times more detailed than those of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The project saw data transferred NZ’s Warkworth dish, operated by AUT University, to Australia using a recently established 1Gbps connectivity via the Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network.

On the Australian side, three CSIRO facilities in New South Wales, a new dish in Western Australia, inland from Geraldton, and a University of Tasmania dish near Hobart, were used.

"This successful linking of antennas shows Australia and New Zealand’s commitment to next-generation astronomical research and how seriously we are taking the SKA bid,” CSIRO SKA director Dr Brian Boyle said of the link-up in a statement.

"The linking of the Warkworth antenna is a milestone for New Zealand science," Professor Sergei Gulyaev, director of the Institute for Radio Astronomy and Space Research at AUT said in a statement.

“It shows that Australia and New Zealand can achieve the SKA’s ambitious science goals."

According to the CSIRO, the telescope has already begun studying the Centaurus A galaxy, creating an image 100,000 times higher than the radio image made by CSIRO last year.

Curtin University’s Professor Steven Tingay, said taking an image of Centaurus A - some 14 million light-years away from Earth - was analogous to photographing a pin head from 20km away.

Earlier this month, work has commenced on the roll out of fibre optic backhaul between Perth and Geraldton in Western Australia that will help Australia’s bid for the global astronomy project, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

In March a parliamentary standing committee on public works was set up to assess the value of a supercomputer that will support Australia’s SKA.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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