Australia’s SKA precursor telescope, CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) was officially opened on 5 October by Australian Science and Research Minister, Senator Chris Evans in a ceremony at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory.
Guests and dignitaries who made the trip to the ASKAP site for the opening included representatives from SKA partner countries, government, science and industry organisations, local stakeholders and the Wajarri Yamatji people.
The ceremony, held beside ASKAP’s 3-storey tall dish antennas, included a demonstration of traditional dance performed by artists from the traditional landowner group, the Wajarri Yamatji. Wajarri Yamatji representatives also performed an official naming ceremony where each of the 36 antennas were given a name from the Wajarri language.
More than just a precursor instrument to demonstrate advanced technology for the SKA, the $160 million, 36-dish telescope is a premier telescope facility in its own right. When fully operational in 2013, it will be the world's fastest survey radio-telescope, thanks to innovative Phased Array Feed "radio cameras" developed by Australia's CSIRO. These “radio cameras” provide wide but clear images of the sky, allowing astronomers to map and compare astronomical objects faster than ever before.
During phase 1 of the SKA beginning in 2016, ASKAP will be built-out with an additional 60 antennas to form the 96-dish SKA Survey Array.
A video recording of the opening ceremony is available.
A media release for the ASKAP opening is available on Science and Research Minister, Senator Chris Evans's website.