Australia and New Zealand submitted a joint bid to host SKA infrastructure, proposing remote array stations in New Zealand that enabled a baseline of more than 5,000 km for VLBI observations. Although the dual-site solution adopted by the SKA Organisation means that SKA infrastructure will not be built in New Zealand, our science and industry groups remain closely involved with infrastructure development in Australia (such as the MWA precursor instrument) are actively bidding to participate in Pre-construction Phase work packages. The following sections summarise SKA-relevant activity involving New Zealand science and industry groups:
Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) SKA Precursor Instrument
New Zealand is part of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) consortium, which has developed a radio telescope with no moving parts in which all telescope functions (including pointing) are performed by electronic manipulation of signals. The MWA instrument comprises 2,048 dual-polarization dipole antennas optimized for the 80-300 MHz frequency range, arranged as 128 tiles, each of which has a 4x4 array of dipoles. The majority of the tiles are within a 1.5 km core region, forming an array with very high imaging quality and a field of view of several hundred square degrees at a resolution of several arcminutes. The remaining 16 tiles are placed at locations outside the core, yielding baseline distances of about 3 km to allow higher angular resolution for solar burst measurements. Key science goals for the MWA project focus on hydrogen signals from the Epoch of Reionization, a high sensitivity survey of the dynamic radio sky, and measurements of the Sun and the heliospheric plasma and an all-sky continuum survey for Galactic and extragalactic science. Other science enabled by the MWA includes pulsar studies, radio recombination line mapping and high resolution probes of the local interstellar medium. ...read more
Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI)
VLBI allows radio astronomers to use two or more radio telescopes separated by continental distances as one virtual telescope, which dramatically increases angular resolution of the system. The Institute for Radio Astronomy and Space Research (IRASR) at AUT uses its 12-m radio telescope at Warkworth to develop trans-Tasman VLBI and its real-time version, eVLBI. Both VLBI and eVLBI were successfully tested in 2010 and 2011 in joint Australia-New Zealand observations between Warkworth and ASKAP (5,500 km baseline), involving radio telescopes operated by CASS (CSIRO) and the University of Tasmania. IRASR researchers use VLBI and eVLBI to study the physics of active galactic nuclei and the interstellar matter, Earth rotation, tectonic plate motion and for tracking interplanetary probes.
Information Intensive Framework
IBM New Zealand has developed a software architecture known as the Information Intensive Framework (IIF), to address the SKA data deluge challenge. It is designed to automate routine aspects of scientists' workflow to create information and knowledge from scientific data, thus increasing data accessibility and productivity. The IIF architecture includes: support for very large data volumes; accessibility for a very broad range of users, both skilled and novice; advanced automation features to generate information and knowledge from astronomical data; provision for researchers to create their own ‘problem solvers’; and providing advanced statistical services within the framework. A prototype project commissioned by the New Zealand government confirmed that the IIF could successfully categorise astronomical data and facilitate 'guided searches'.
National e-Science Infrastructure (NeSI)
NeSI is New Zealand’s national infrastructure for High Performance Computing (HPC) and related eScience. NeSI enables scientists from a wide range of communities and disciplines to use vastly superior computing power within their research, while supporting better, more efficient coordination and cooperation across the research sector. NeSI's team of experts supports HPC systems at three facilities hosted by The University of Auckland, Canterbury University, and NIWA, and has a national team that collaborates with researchers on their research projects. The groups supporting HPC at each site are the Centre for eResearch, BlueFern, and FitzRoy HPC Facility respectively. NeSI works alongside the national REANNZ advanced network, which provides high capacity data connectivity between research, education and innovation organisations in New Zealand at soon to be 100Gb/s speeds, and to global research and education communities through more than 100 international research and education network peerings, and a shared 40Gb/s science wave in partnership with AARNET.
Awarua Satellite Tracking Station
In 2008, in conjunction with the French Space Agency (CNES), Venture Southland established the Awarua Tracking Station near Invercargill for the European Space Agency (ESA) to track Ariane 5 ATV launches. Work is underway to upgrade the station for tracking, telemetry and command, and reception of image data from remote-sensing satellites. The station will also be used for supporting new satellite launches and to track launch vehicles that perform the launch services. Venture Southland is working with a number of agencies, including AUT to establish an eVLBI station in Southland.