Csiro astronomy and Space Science

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CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science



Issue No. 73, October 2012

ISSN 1323-6326

CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science — Undertaking world-leading astronomical research

and operator of the Australia Telescope National Facility.


Welcome to the October 2012 edition of ATNF News. It has been a particularly busy period since the last edition, from the announcement of the site of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in May and the successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory in August, to the triennial IAU General Assembly in September and the opening of the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) and Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in early October.

We start with a photographic account of the official opening of ASKAP and the MRO, a high-profile event that took place on Friday 5 October. We also look at the latest news from the ASKAP project and provide an update on CSIRO’s contribution to the international planning for the SKA.

We then feature the successful landing of ‘Curiosity’ on Mars and the support role played by the Parkes radio telescope in tracking the entry, descent and landing of the science laboratory.

In other news, we report on CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science participation in the IAU General Assembly in Beijing, the CASS Radio School 2012, and recent awards and appointments. We also include our regular features on new postdoctoral staff, the graduate student program and recent distinguished visitors.

It has also been a productive period for science. Four science articles give a snapshot of the latest radio astronomy research being conducted with the ATNF. These include:

  • A review of the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array project by George Hobbs and Dick Manchester

  • A description of fascinating jet structures in PKS B2152-699 by Diana Worrall and Mark Birkinshaw

  • Catarina Ubach and coauthors’ identification of signatures of grain growth in protoplanetary discs, and

  • A detailed study of gas and star formation in the Circinus galaxy by Bi-Qing For, Bärbel Koribalski and Tom Jarrett.

We conclude with our regular contributions on education and outreach activities, ATNF operations and recent publications.

We hope you enjoy this issue. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. If you would like to contribute to future editions of ATNF News, please contact the newsletter team.

Gabby Russell and Tony Crawshaw

The ATNF News Editorial Team



Editorial 2

Contents 3

From the Chief of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science 4

CSIRO celebrates official opening of ASKAP and the MRO 5

ASKAP and SKA news 6

ASKAP technologies 7

ASKAP science 7

SKA activities 8

Collaborator projects 11

Parkes supports Mars rover landing 12

On show at the IAU General Assembly 13

CASS Radio School 2012 14

Awards and appointments 16

Welcome to new postdoctoral staff 17

Graduate student program 18

Distinguished visitors 19

9,000 hours of the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array 20

PKS B2152-699 reveals details of its large-scale jet 28

Signatures of grain growth in protoplanetary discs 33

Gas and star formation in the Circinus galaxy 36

Education and outreach 41

Operations 42

Publications 45

From the Chief of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science

Phil Diamond (Chief of CASS)

It is with a degree of sadness that I write this final message for ATNF News, my last as Chief of CASS and as ATNF Director. As many in the astronomy community will be aware, I departed CSIRO on 12 October to take up the role of Director General with the international SKA Organisation based in Manchester, UK. My new role will, of course, allow me to stay in touch with CSIRO and the Australian astronomy community as the SKA telescope project begins to takes shape.

While my time with CASS has been a relatively short two-and-a-bit years, it has been personally satisfying to participate in the development and official launch of the Australian SKA Pathfinder and Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia, and to lead such a talented team of scientists and engineers delivering world-class science and facilities. Other highlights of my time here have included celebrating the 50th anniversary of ‘The Dish’ at Parkes, being involved in the team that successfully delivered SKA co-hosting rights, and experiencing the awe-inspiring landing of the Mars rover ‘Curiosity’ from the CASS-operated Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, which was responsible for tracking the spacecraft.

My thanks go to the CASS team, I will treasure and remember your ingenuity and spirit, as well as your help and advice in ensuring that the high standards expected in such a post were met.

CASS has a truly outstanding heritage in radio astronomy and I’m sure will continue to deliver great things into the future. When ASKAP is operational next year, I look forward to seeing great science come from this innovative instrument along with a continuation of the excellent science that is done with the other telescopes that make up the ATNF.

Sarah Pearce, CASS Deputy Chief, has taken on the role of Acting Chief of CASS while an international search takes place for my replacement.

I wish everyone all the best for the future and depart all the richer for the experiences that I have gained here.

CSIRO celebrates official opening of ASKAP and the MRO

Flornes Conway-Derley and Tony Crawshaw (CASS)

Friday 5 October 2012 marked an historic occasion as, under clear blue skies, Senator the Hon. Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, officially opened CSIRO’s newest radio telescope, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) and the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) on which ASKAP is sited.

Guests transported to the remote site for the day included board members of the SKA Organisation, senior government representatives, ambassadors and high commissioners of SKA member countries, neighbouring pastoralists and traditional owners of the MRO, the Wajarri Yamatji.

Highlights of the ceremony included a ‘Welcome to Country’, traditional dancing by members of the Wajarri Yamatji, and bestowing of traditional Wajarri names to each of the ASKAP antennas. Addresses were given by Dr Megan Clark (CSIRO Chief Executive), Simon Broad (Murchison Shire President), the Hon. John Day (Western Australian Minister for Science and Innovation), Godfrey Simpson (Wajarri Yamatji) and Minister Evans. Proceedings concluded with the push of a button by Minister Evans, initiating the slewing of the ASKAP antennas to point toward Virgo A as test data began to stream in.

As part of festivities, public talks on ASKAP and the SKA were held in Geraldton, and local celebrations took place at CASS sites at Marsfield, Parkes, Narrabri and Tidbinbilla. A webcast of proceedings was also available to viewers from around the world and continues to be available at http://tinyvio.com/CSIRO_ASKAP_Opening_Ceremony.

Special thanks goes out to everyone involved in the organisation and coordination of the ceremony and supporting events. From those on the ground at the MRO, to those who joined in the local festivities, many people worked tirelessly to ensure the opening was certainly a day to remember.

ASKAP commissioning activities are currently underway, with operations due to begin in 2013.

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