The Murchison Widefield Array

A multi-million dollar international low-frequency telescope in Australia's Midwest.

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The Telescope

The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is a low-frequency radio telescope in Western Australia. The front-end of the MWA consists of 4,096 spider-like antennas arranged in 256 regular grids called ‘tiles’, spread over several kilometres within the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO). Data from the antennas is correlated onsite before being transmitted to the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre for long-term storage. The back-end of the telescope is an online platform: the MWA node of the All Sky Virtual Observatory (MWA-ASVO), through which scientists access calibrated MWA data.

The MWA’s particular attributes include:

  • a very wide field of view (hundreds of square degrees)
  • high angular resolution (several arcminutes)
  • wide frequency range (70–300 MHz) with flexible tuning, and
  • extreme (digital) pointing agility.

The MWA’s unprecedented capabilities also underpin its critical role as the first fully operational precursor instrument of the A$1 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project. Currently in development, the SKA will be the world’s largest radio telescope, designed to solve the deepest mysteries of the Universe.

The MWA has been developed by an international collaboration, including partners from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, India, Canada and the United States. The telescope is maintained and remotely operated by a small team based at the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy (CIRA).

We acknowledge the Wajarri Yamatji people as the traditional owners of the Observatory site.

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Image: Animation showing the giant radio galaxy Fornax A in false color, comparing data from the MWA Phase I and Phase II configurations. Credit: Dr Ben McKinley (Curtin University, ARC DECRA Fellow)

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The Science

The MWA is performing large surveys of the entire Southern Hemisphere sky and acquiring deep observations on targeted regions. It enables astronomers to pursue four key science objectives. The primary endeavor is the hunt for intergalactic hydrogen gas that surrounded early galaxies during the cosmological epoch of reionization (EoR). The MWA will also provide new insights into our Milky Way galaxy and its magnetic field, pulsing and exploding stellar objects, and the science of space weather that connects our Sun to the environment here on Earth.

Since mid-2013, when the MWA began scanning the Earth’s southern skies, the project has supported a trove of scientific achievements. These include: 

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