The Murchison Wide-field Array (MWA) radio telescope is being constructed 315km north east of Geraldton by the Curtin University node of ICRAR, in collaboration with MIT, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University, Curtin University, CSIRO and the Raman Research Institute in India.
Once finished, the MWA will consist of 128 “smart tiles”, each with 16 radio antennas, spread across an area of about 3km. Our job for the next week or so is to lay those tiles in readiness for the “dipole” receiving elements to be installed next month.
Today we laid 26 tiles, consisting of more than one and a half tonne of steel mesh. The ground under each 5m by 5m tile needs to be flat and free of trees, roots and chunks of stone. After limited success with some less than ideal equipment yesterday, David the owner of Wooleen Station where we’re staying provided us with a couple of picks, a sledge hammer and an enormous crow bar. Armed with the right tools for the job the rocks, roots, lumps and bumps stood little chance and were quickly removed or evened out ready for the mesh sheets to be placed.
Today was hard but with the four of us working like a well-oiled machine we made significant and satisfying progress. If we can keep up to the same pace over the next few days we should have al 128 laid by the weekend ready for spot welding.
As the week goes on I hope to have a chance to take a look at the rest of the site where another telescope, the Australian SKA Pathfinder, is being assembled. The one we’re working on, the MWA is one of only three official SKA Precursor telescopes, and will be the first to be completed, proving the technology and science on the path to the SKA. Australia and New Zealand are bidding to host the SKA, with the site location to be decided any day now.
For more info head to:
MWA website http://mwatelescope.org/
MWA Facebook http://www.facebook.com/Murchison.Widefield.Array