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Agreement brings NZ closer to mega-science project

AUT-CSIRO partnership brings NZ closer to international mega-science project

New Zealand's prospects for a major role in the international Square Kilometre Array project have been boosted with the signing of an agreement between researchers at AUT University and Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) is leading the development of the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope, which will be a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a giant next-generation radio telescope being developed by scientists in 17 countries. Australia and South Africa have been shortlisted as hosts for the SKA.

The Memorandum of Understanding between AUT and CSIRO sets a broad agenda for closer scientific cooperation and includes specific actions such as the establishment of radio astronomy telescope facilities in New Zealand.

Other actions include incorporating New Zealand radio telescopes into a set of Australian radio telescopes that are often used for joint experiments, and the use of fast broadband network links including KAREN, AARNet and trans-Tasman capabilities.

AUT has already invested in a 12-m radio telescope which will be delivered to a site near Warkworth later this year. Professor Sergei Gulyaev, Director of the Institute for Radiophysics and Space Research at AUT says, "The radio telescope will enable researchers at the institute to receive and process very large amounts of data from deep space for cutting-edge research in Astrophysics and Earth Science."

Working with the Australian telescopes and using a process called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), the new radio telescope will allow researchers to measure the positions of objects in space and to precisely measure the positions of the telescopes themselves, resulting in geodetic measurements.

Researchers at AUT and CSIRO believe the actions set out in the agreement will prepare them for participation in SKA.

Professor Brian Boyle, Director of the ATNF-CSIRO, says, "Australia is firmly committed to the SKA initiative and is working hard with the international community to ensure its success. The Australian Government has provided A$118.5 million to help meet some of the key technology and engineering development requirements of the SKA, the Western Australian Government has also committed $29.3 million for radio astronomy developments in that State."

The Hon. Kim Carr, Australian Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research stressed the importance of New Zealand participation in the SKA at the opening of an International SKA Forum in Perth last month. "[The] Memorandum of Understanding between CSIRO and AUT is an important milestone in our movement towards the SKA".


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