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Radio telescope launch a milestone

Radio telescope launch a milestone in New Zealand's scientific and educational history

Researchers will be able to probe the secrets of deep space when AUT University's radio telescope launches on Wednesday October 8.

Situated in a radio-quiet valley near Warkworth, north of Auckland, the $1 million telescope is the first to be built in New Zealand.

One of the main advantages of radio telescopes is that they are able to penetrate dust clouds that obscure views of many important astronomical objects including the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

The new facility, which is linked to New Zealand's most powerful super computers, will enable AUT University's Institute of Radiophysics and Space Research to receive and process enormous amounts of data from deep space for cutting-edge research in astrophysics and earth science.

Through its link to the global geodetic network of radio telescopes and to New Zealand's GPS network PositioNZ (in collaboration with LINZ and GNS Science) it will be used to measure the rate of movement of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates upon which New Zealand sits.

AUT's investment in the telescope will provide a major teaching/learning and research facility for the new Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences astronomy major to be offered by the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences from 2009.

Having the telescope also boosts New Zealand's bid to co-host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), one of biggest science projects in the world. The $US3 billion SKA project involves combining the power of thousands of radio telescope antennas spread over 3000 km. The resulting radio telescope will let scientists "hear" radiation sources so distant that they must have originated 13 billion years ago, near the beginning of the universe.

Earlier this year AUT signed an agreement with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) which includes incorporating AUT's new radio telescope into a set of Australian radio telescopes for joint experiments.


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