In 2007, in anticipation that Australia would host the largest radio telescope ever conceived, Curtin University seized an opportunity to build a unique, world-leading research group in Western Australia.
And so, the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy (CIRA) was created at an auspicious time for advancing radio astronomy science and engineering.
One of CIRA’s missions is to help develop and build the world’s next generation of radio telescopes, including the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
The scale of the SKA and its science goals demand excellence and innovation in various areas of astrophysics, engineering and computer science.
The best approach was to form a dedicated institute for collaboration among these disciplines – which is why CIRA has such comprehensive expertise.
The multi-billion-dollar SKA project is expected to be one of this century’s major science endeavours.
When completed, the telescope will comprise thousands of antennas installed across thousands of square kilometres in South Africa and Australia.
Its observations will help solve the mysteries of the Universe – from the evolution of galaxies and the true nature of gravity, to the existence of life elsewhere in the cosmos.
But to develop the SKA, several precursor telescopes were required, each operating in specific frequency ranges.
One of these precursors is the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), built and operated by CIRA, , in collaboration with more than 20 international partners in six countries.
Indeed, the computational challenge of the MWA demanded extensive innovation for data collection, transfer, processing and storage.
To meet these challenges, CIRA partnered with CISCO Systems and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, which hosts one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.
The range of frontier research opportunities that CIRA can offer in astrophysics, engineering and data science attracts researchers and students from around Australia and the world to Perth … sustaining a highly diverse, inclusive and very international research culture.
ICRAR , the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, is a very successful joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia.
We established ICRAR in 2009, with support from the state government. It’s had a massive impact in attracting the SKA to Western Australia, and building capabilities that will sustain the SKA over the long term.
While the MWA has been designed for astrophysics, it adds significant capabilities to other space-industry challenges.
It’s such a powerful instrument that it’s likely to have diverse, and unexpected, applications in science and industry.
Together, the MWA and the SKA radio telescopes will sustain research and discovery at CIRA for decades.