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Oz's SKAMP to help global mega-telescope bid

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The University of Sydney’s radio telescope has been super-charged by CSIRO smarts, boosting its bandwidth tenfold.

The freshly tinkered telescope formerly known as MOST, the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope, has been renamed SKAMP (the Square Kilometre Array Molonglo Prototype).

The CSIRO was contracted to develop signal-processing systems which have made the telescope more flexible, three times more sensitive, with 10 times more bandwidth, up from 3 MHz to 30 MHz.

“This project has given our telescope a whole new capability. It looks the same, but under the bonnet it has been born again,” said Professor Anne Green of the University of Sydney.

The SKAMP and the CSIRO’s own ASKAP (Australian SKA Pathfinder) telescope are being showcased in the bid to win the tender to host the world’s largest and most advanced radio telescope – the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

“What we’ve learned over several years will now allow us to dramatically shorten our design cycle for ASKAP's digital systems, as well as potentially feed into future development work that will be required for the SKA,” says CSIRO SKA Director, Dr Brian Boyle.

The CSIRO has built a similar correlator to the one devise for SKAMP for the international Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) consortium, which is building a low-frequency radio telescope at the same site as the ASKAP telescope in Western Australia.

MWA will also demonstrate technology for the SKA project.

Meanwhile, John Humphreys, head of the Australasian SKA Industry Consortium (ASKAIC) said Australia and joint bidder New Zealand are in a good position to win the international Square Kilometre Array radio-telescope project. Speaking at an event in Wellington , he and New Zealand project leader Jonathan Kings said that they would be working in the back rooms to get the deal moving. “We will not be overt lobbyists in the crass political sense of the word,” Kings said.

The core objectives of the project are to look at the oldest stars in the universe and the process of cosmic evolution, as well as searching out clues to the origins of life. If the ANZ bid is successful, it will stimulate the local infrastructure industry demanding investments in infrastructure needed to handle the data surges of up to 100 terabits/second and significant data warehousing power in addition to electrical power requirements. ®

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