Last updated February 1, 2018 at 1:30 pm
The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is the world’s newest telescope, built in Western Australia as part of the worldwide Square Kilometre Array (SKA) network. One of four planned precursor facilities, it is the first to be completed.
The MWA is located 315km northeast of Geraldton at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, a “radio quiet” area larger than Tasmania. Within this area, radio transmissions are strictly restricted and monitored, making it one of the quietest places in the world – perfect for carrying out radio astronomy.
What makes the MWA revolutionary, however, is that it is not like any other radio telescope in the world. It has no moving parts, and is tuned to detect only low frequency transmissions. Collecting this low-frequency radiation from the universe it will map the sky, detect variable and short-lived radio emissions, and detect the Epoch of Reionisation – the first stars and galaxies.
The amount of data it will collect is huge, each year the MWA will produce three petabytes of data – that’s enough to fill 10 USB hard drives every single day. This data will be processed and stored at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth, which has a direct connection with the Murchison telescopes.
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