12 Jul 2013 11:19
CANBERRA, July 9 (Bernama) -- Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), the world's most sensitive radio telescope and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA)'s first precursor telescope, officially began observations of the universe in Australia, Minister for Innovation Kim Carr announced Tuesday. The MWA is an important pathfinder project for the SKA, a 2-billion AU dollars (US$1.82 billion) radio telescope which will operate in South Africa and Australia and is 50 times more sensitive than any other radio instrument. The Australian component of the SKA will comprise several million antennas. "MWA is an important radio telescope in its own right. It will also be a key precursor in the design and development of the SKA's Low Frequency Array to be hosted here in Australia," Xinhua news agency quoted director general of the international SKA Organisation, Prof. Philip Diamond as saying. More than 350 astronomers and engineers from Australia, the U.S, India and New Zealand have collaborated to make the project a reality. The MWA will explore the early universe looking for signals from the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang by collecting the very faintest radio signals from deep space using more than 2,000 antennas. The array will also help researchers understand the interaction between the earth and the sun, give early warning of destructive solar flares and study our galaxy and other galaxies. "This is an incredibly proud moment for Australia. The MWA is the first SKA precursor telescope to be completed and to become fully operational," Carr said. "The MWA will help Australia remain a world leader in radio astronomy while also building our scientific capabilities and attracting some of the best scientific minds to our country," he added. --BERNAMA EE