2 Dec 2012

Solar storm radio telescope unveiled

10:00 am on 2 December 2012

A $A51 million radio telescope designed to detect and monitor large solar storms has been officially unveiled in the remote Murchison region of Western Australia.

Experts hope the Murchison Widefield Array telescope will provide early warnings to prevent damage to communication satellites, electric power grids and navigation systems.

The ABC reports the project has taken eight years of work by a consortium of 13 institutions across four countries, led by Curtin University.

The site was chosen as the best location for low frequency radio astronomy.

Professor of Radio Astronomy at Curtin University Steven Tingay said the project will also offer scientists an unprecedented view of the entire history of the universe.

"Understanding how the dramatic transformation took place soon after the Big Bang, over 13 billion years ago, is the final frontier for astrophysicists like me," he said. Professor Tingay is also director of the array.

"Preliminary testing, using only a fraction of the MWA's capability, has already achieved results that are on par with the best results ever achieved in the search for the first stars and galaxies,'' he said.

"We anticipate a 10-fold improvement in performance when the full capabilities of the MWA are pressed into service in early 2013."

The ABC reports the Murchison Widefield Array is one of three projects preceding the Square Kilometre Array.