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Radio Astronomy meets Art!

A long history of collaboration between the MWA and the Yamaji Art centre in Geraldton has centred around Wajarri artwork depicting the night skies. Yamaji Art is the longest running Aboriginal art centre in the Midwest, and recently, Yamaji artists showcased their amazing talent once more by painting a bizarre object – none other than the ‘beam pattern’ of an MWA antenna tile.

Large MWA 3D beam pattern, painted by Margaret Whitehurst, Yamaji Art. Mini MWA 3D beam patterns painted by Dylan Kerley and Nichole Dickerson, Yamaji Art. Image credit: Curtin University

Beam patterns illustrate how the MWA telescope can point in different directions without having any moving parts, unlike, say, an ASKAP dish. The centre beam is the most sensitive part of the antenna tile, and it can be electronically steered around the sky to receive signals from far-away stars and galaxies. The beam patterns shown in these images have a ‘zenith’ (overhead) pointing, meaning the antenna tile is effectively looking straight up! For a visual representation of this work and to learn more about beam patterns and beam forming, head to:

The original model of the beam pattern was created by ICRAR-Curtin research engineers Daniel Ung and Dr Maria Kovaleva, using data taken from the MWA telescope at ~160MHz. It was then 3D-printed with a tough white filament material, approximately 20cm tall, ready to be ‘artified’.  Yamaji Art Manager and Emerging Artist, Roni Kerley, described the beam patterns as ‘absolutely petrifying to paint’, but the results are stunning – combining radio astronomy and art with an incredible amount of creativity.

The blank ‘canvas’ before the Yamaji artists worked their magic. Image credit: Curtin University

These beautiful beam patterns were presented to the MWA Collaboration by Roni Kerley at the 10-Year Anniversary of MWA Operations in July 2023. To hear Roni’s presentation, head to the MWA YouTube Channel via this link:

Yamaji Art manager Roni Kerley presenting an ‘artified’ beam pattern at the MWA 10-Year Anniversary. Image credit: Curtin University
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