Saturday, June 29, 2013

Professor Steven Tingay's Presentation Regarding Reinventing Astronomy With Radio Telescopes

I'm a member of the Curtin University Alumni. Over the years they've invited me to several presentations and special nights, such as the Alumni Academic Lecture Series, but I've never felt the need or been able to attend. Recently they invited me to a Professor Steven Tingay's presentation regarding "Reinventing Astronomy With Radio Telescopes". OK, so I didn't study in the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy but this captured my interest. I thought that the timing with the supermoon might have been a coincidence.

Synopsis - The Office of Alumni Relations has the pleasure of inviting you to the second instalment of the Alumni Academic Lecture Series, with Professor Steven Tingay. Steven is a Western Australian Premier's Research Fellow, Director of the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy, Deputy Director of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, and Director of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) project.

Astronomy research at Curtin University is on the leading edge of a wave of innovation that is reinventing the way we look at the Universe. Curtin leads the $50m Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), an international next generation radio telescope that surveys vast slabs of the Universe from outback Western Australia, but has no moving parts. Steven will discuss the MWA and some of the early science that it has produced. The MWA is a Precursor for the much larger multi-billion dollar Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The presentation will cover how the Curtin team is making fundamental contributions to the SKA, through our leadership of the MWA, as well as our place in the international team designing and building the SKA. Steven will also explain some of the SKA science goals that will allow us to study (and hopefully understand) the entire 13.7 billion year history of our Universe!

Just a few of my notes (yes, I still took notes):

- Most of the output of the sun is within the visible light spectrum and our eyes have developed accordingly.
- Shorter wavelengths (gamma rays) = more energy, longer wavelengths (radio waves) = less energy.
- Gamma rays and x-rays don't penetrate Earth's atmosphere so you need an orbiting satellite to detect them.
- The Murchison Widefield Array, a newer style of radio telescope which is much more user-friendly than the standard dish, is set up in the Murchison shire, which has an area of 41,000 sq kilometres (population about 100 - about the size of the Netherlands) and little radio interference so it's very suitable for studying the universe. It will generate about 15 petabytes of data which will be analysed at the Pawsey Centre in Technology Park by an $80m supercomputer. There is a 10 Gbps fibre link.
- Curtin is the lead in the MWA project, which is a precursor for the SKA.
- Normal radio telescopes cost about $5m/yr to operate and maintain.
- Purpose is to allow us to look back greater than 12 billion years in time at the universe. Only radio telescopes are capable of looking at this.
- Federal and State legislation has been enacted to protect the MWA site. It's very difficult to approach within 70kms.
- The sun has a coronal mass ejection with an eleven year cycle. They are planning to increase the warning time from four to 20 hours to allow satellites to be protected from such ejections which can damage them irreparably.
- Barionic material, which people, animals, desks, etc consist of constitutes less than 5% of the content of the universe.
- Dark Matter - dominated the structure of the early universe.
- Dark Energy - approximately 75% (diagram showed about 70%) of the content of the universe, responsible for pushing the universe apart.
- The Square Kilometre Array will be 100 times more powerful than the Murchison Widefield Array and is going to be used to help solve the puzzles of Dark Matter and Dark Energy.
- Space junk is a huge problem currently and requires a high level of space situational awareness (tracking space junk).
- Three hours after releasing a press release regarding how the MWA tracked the International Space Station Professor Tingay was contacted by the Department of Defence and asked to explain his actions. After convincing them of the goings on they then wanted to enter into joint ventures.

They are going to release the video of this lecture but I was unable to locate it this morning. Quite an interesting lecture, even though it wasn't related to my field of study, and I'm keen to attend more.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Short European Trip - Fri

Up early checking emails, bread and cheese/salami for breakfast with a big cup of tea. Could get used to that. Took Michal's youngest son to school, dropped off his skis in Stupava, where Janette Husarova used to train, so they could be sharpened. Few more errands to run. Visited his parents who are both elderly but live at home. The basement had water in it as there had been lots of snow this year and its melting had caused some problems. Came back for lunch where we had a very sweet pasta which looked like a dumpling. Gave his mother some mugs with Australian birds on them - she looked after me quite well when I visited back in '95. Their dog was very timid at first but once he became comfortable with me all he wanted to do was shake hands. Funny that they keep the gate locked, not to keep the dog in, but to keep people out.

Sweet dumplings

Me tucking into the sweet dumplings

Also visited Marianka which is a religious site. So cold, lots of snow, and the place looked beautiful.


Off to the golf course - Golf Club Pegas, Lozorno. Only four holes were playable as the course had been under snow until a couple of days ago. Hit a bucket of balls on the driving range. Cold, only 3°C. Time to play - partnered with Patrick against Miro and Peter (Petko). We played a competition for the best score and best summary for each pair for one point each. Scores were tied at the end of the match so we played again. Patrick and I won so Peter and Miro had to buy the tea/coffee.

Driving range

Golf Club Pegas, Lozorno

Bunker filled with snow

Don't fall in at the 9th

Picturesque green at the 9th

Didn't get to finish my tea before we had to go home for a quick bite and find Michal's dog who had gotten out. We drove around town and I found him near Michal's parent's place. Dropped some mugs off for Miro's parents as well before heading back to pick up the skis and get dropped off at Hotel President where I would be staying. Hole no. 9 is 268m and I had to take relief from the road in front of the hole with one of my drives - so I hit it about 250m off the tee. Like the clubs that I borrowed. Had one shot out of the snow in the bunker and put it on. Peter nearly fell in the water on the 9th at one stage.

Enjoying a winning tea after the game

Checked emails, sent some photos to the missus and went to bed very tired after quite a fun day.