Study Radio Astronomy in Australia

Radio astronomy is a sub-discipline of astronomy and aims to gather and interpret information about the Universe and objects within it via the use of telescopes that are sensitive to radio waves - radio telescopes.  Information obtained through radio astronomy techniques can be used in conjunction with information obtained from optical, infrared, X-ray and gamma-ray telescopes, to build a multi-wavelength physical picture of the Universe and the objects within it.

Study Radio astronomy in Australia

Graduate students in radio astronomy will typically use a variety of different telescopes to gather data and then analyse the data in conjunction with physical theories being tested and/or in conjunction with data from other telescopes, such as optical telescopes.

Radio astronomers study: the formation and life cycle of stars; the structure of our own galaxy, The Milky Way; the structure and evolution of galaxies in the nearby and distant Universe; the earliest periods in the history of the Universe – the so-called dark ages; the cosmic microwave background; and the structure and evolution of the Universe itself via cosmology.  Radio astronomers tackle questions in physics such as: what is the 95% of the Universe that we do not understand – so-called dark energy and dark matter?; is Einstein’s theory of gravity still correct in the most extreme gravitational fields in the Universe?; what is the origin of magnetic fields?.  Radio astronomy is also brought to bear on questions such as, do other advanced life forms exist in our galaxy?

Radio astronomy is entering a new Golden Age.  Over the next decade the international radio astronomy community aims to build the Square Kilometre Array, (SKA) the most complex and largest scientific instrument ever conceived.  The SKA will be the size of a continent and 50 – 100 times more sensitive than any existing radio telescope.  The SKA is designed to image objects in the Universe back to the epoch of formation of the first stars and galaxies and will be a multi-billion dollar project.

Australia/New Zealand is one of two regions being considered to host the SKA, with the primary concentration of instrumentation proposed for Western Australia.  The Australian government and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have thus far invested approximately $300m into building: an SKA pathfinder, the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) in Western Australia; an high performance computing centre for SKA science in Perth, Western Australia; a green energy solution for the proposed Western Australian site; and optical fibre connections between the site and the computing centre.  In addition, an international consortium is building the $30m Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), at the same Western Australian location.

The MWA and ASKAP will be leading edge telescopes, powerful in their own right, and a fundamental part of the technology and science development toward the SKA.  Most major Australian universities have direct involvement in the development of these instruments and graduate students have a chance to be involved with both the development of the technology going into these instruments and the extraction of the first unique science that will emerge.

These graduates will be well-placed to embark upon research careers in astronomy throughout the world and be part of the push to build and operate the SKA.

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