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Upgrade for SKA precursor telescope in Australia

The white-coated 2nd generation Phase Array Feed receiver on ASKAP’s antenna 29.

On September 4, the first full-size second generation (Mk II) phased array feed (PAF) receiver was installed on an antenna at the Australian SKA site – the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia.

This marked a new milestone in the development of CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope, one of three SKA precursor telescopes.

PAFs are a new technology being developed at CSIRO equivalent to “radio cameras”, providing a uniquely large field-of-view to image large swaths of the sky at the same time.

The development of the second generation PAF system builds on many of the lessons learnt with the design, development, construction and testing of the Mk I receiver. Six Mk I PAFs and their associated electronics, were installed on ASKAP antennas in 2013 and are already producing early science results.

The design of the Mk II now also incorporates novel components and assembly techniques such as the use of marine composites technology in the PAF casing to manage structural loading, thermal insulation, environmental protection and RFI shielding, as well as specially-designed ground planes that ensure a low and stable operating temperature for increased system reliability.

The installation has quickly followed the recent preliminary ground-based aperture array tests on the Mk II PAF, which yielded promising system temperature results, confirming the overall system design.

The Mk II PAF is currently installed on ASKAP Antenna 29 — to follow its progress tune in to the live MRO webcam.

About ASKAP: one of three SKA precursor telescopes, ASKAP is currently being commissioned. It is using 6 antennas (out of a total of 36) in a test array called BETA, which are equipped with the 1st generation PAF receivers.

Full release on the CSIRO ATNF website.