Oct. 5 - In the remote Australian outback, scientists commission world's fastest radio telescope that will vastly increase astronomers' ability to survey the universe. Sunita Rappai reports.
The Australian outback - home to such Aussie icons as the kangaroo, emu and dingo - and now this: the world's fastest radio telescope. The Australia Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder or ASKAP, with 36 antennas, each 40 feet across, began operating on Friday. The 155 million US dollar dollar telescope uses new radio cameras to scan the sky much more rapidly than existing telescopes. (SOUNDBITE)(English) MEGAN CLARK, CSIRO CHIEF EXECUTIVE SAYING: " We can see large parts of the sky, we can start to really scan and if you like have a panorama of the Universe in a way that we've never had before." To understand just how fast it is, an image of Centauraus A, our closest galaxy with a black hole, would previously have required 400 images, two years of observation and 10,000 hours of computer time. ASKAP will take just two images and five minutes of observation and computer time. The only problem is the amount of data the telescope will generate, as Australia's Science Minister Chris Evans explained at the opening ceremony. (SOUNDBITE)(English) SCIENCE MINISTER, CHRIS EVANS SAYING: " We are going to have to design and build a super computer way beyond the super computers we have now, way beyond that capability to deal with the amount of data." ASKAP is the first building block in the world's largest telescope - the Square Kilometer Array or SKA which will be based in both Australia and South Africa. Construction's due to begin in 2016 when Australia will add another 60 antennas to its current 36.