The Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy (CIRA) was established within Curtin in 2007 to prepare the University to support the nascent Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project – one of the largest international scientific endeavours currently under way.
In 2009 Curtin University, via CIRA, became a partner in the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) with the University of Western Australia.
In the time since, CIRA has flourished into a world-class radio astronomy institute with a significant international profile, leadership roles in a number of international projects, with first-rate science and engineering outputs. CIRA is the lead organisation for the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a $50M+ precursor to the SKA. The MWA collaboration consists of currently 20 organisations from five different countries Australia, China, Canada, Japan, and the United States
CIRA’s points of difference with many peer institutes is that it maintains a multi-disciplinary team that includes both scientists and engineers who are experts in their field. The reciprocal relationship that has been forged between the engineers who design and build radio astronomy instrumentation; and the scientists who motivate and utilise them, is an important enabler of efficiency and innovation. Today, CIRA consists of over 55 scientific, engineering and associate staff engaged across a broad spectrum of activities, many straddling both disciplines.
Scientific staff undertake research into accreting black holes, the evolution of galaxies, the formation of the first structures and luminous objects in the universe, pulsars and transient phenomena. They have assumed leading roles in advising the SKA organisation on scientific priorities and providing input to the instrument’s technical specifications.
CIRA’s engineering staff deploy and operate instrumentation for the MWA and SKA test arrays, and research, develop and test new technology and techniques for radio astronomy. They collaborate with a diverse array of stakeholders— government, industry and community organisations—to solve the formidable challenges of realising a mega-science project on the scale of the SKA.