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Australia’s SKA Pathfinder telescope finds a galaxy

Australia’s SKA Pathfinder telescope finds a galaxy

Breakthrough showcased at the UK's National Astronomy Meeting

The galaxy has a black hole at centre; jets flowing away from the black hole create the strong radio source detected with ASKAP. The green markings show the position of the radio galaxy PKS B1740-517, the orange blob near the centre of this image. Credit: CSIRO

The galaxy has a black hole at centre; jets flowing away from the black hole create the strong radio source detected with ASKAP. The green markings show the position of the radio galaxy PKS B1740-517, the orange blob near the centre of this image. Credit: CSIRO

The SKA Pathfinder telescope (ASKAP), one of the world most high tech radio telescopes, has made a breakthrough in finding a galaxy five billion light years away.

The Australian based tech, located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia, detected a change in radio waves from near the Ara constellation where the bright centre of the galaxy is (PKS B1740-517).

It was discovered that a radio emission travelling to Earth is imprinted with hydrogen gas, which absorbs some of the emission. This created a small ‘dip’ in the signal, which was picked up by the telescope because there was little to no background radio noise.

CSIRO's Dr James Allison led a research team that made this discovery, with the telescope and their research being showcased at the UK's National Astronomy Meeting yesterday.

The team wants to find hundreds of galaxies that contain hydrogen gas, up to 10 billion light years away, using the telescope. Pulsars or small stars that emit pulsed radio signals and giant starless clouds of hydrogen gas will also be studied using the telescope.

"These latest research findings are demonstrating that ASKAP can do what other telescopes can't," Dr Allison said.

In 2013, CSIRO, along with six other Australian organisations, was awarded a contract with the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) office to help technologically design the world's largest radio telescope.

CSIRO is leading the dish design consortium for this telescope, developing its phased array feed receiver for wide field of view radio astronomy. It's also leading the Infrastructure Australia Consortium and is involved in the assembly, integration and verification work package.

It is forecast that the SKA telescope will generate more data than entire Internet in 2020, meaning an exaflop-capable supercomputer and networking would be needed.

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