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Major upgrade helps prepare for world's largest telescope

23 April 2018

Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Senator Michaelia Cash has today launched Phase Two of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a world-leading low‑frequency radio telescope located in the Murchison Radio Quiet Zone, in Western Australia, designed to examine the origins of the universe.

Today’s launch marks a major upgrade to the telescope that brings Commonwealth investment in the project to $14.5 million.

The telescope has already collected huge volumes of astronomical data to inform scientific research since it began operations in 2013.

Minister Cash said the MWA’s upgrade capitalises on Western Australia’s pre-eminent competitive advantage in radioastronomy.

“The upgraded MWA gives Australian scientists a telescope ten times more powerful in its capacity to explore the universe. It confirms Australia’s place at the global centre of astronomy – reflected in the Turnbull Government’s commitment of nearly $300 million as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda,” Minister Cash said.

The MWA is a crucial precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a next‑generation radio telescope that will be hosted jointly by Australia and South Africa.

“The SKA will be the largest and most advanced radio telescope ever constructed and will be used by scientists from around the world to make major discoveries about the universe. Lessons learned in building and operating the MWA are vital to delivering the SKA.”

“These projects are also driving the development of new technologies, particularly in the field of big data management. This work is helping to expand Australian businesses and create jobs, in Western Australia and across the country.”

This morning’s launch was held at Curtin University, which operates the MWA on behalf of an international collaboration of 21 universities and research institutes from seven countries.

“I am delighted that the Phase Two upgrade has brought with it an expansion of the international partnership for the telescope from 14 to 21 institutions,” said Minister Cash.

“With vast radio quiet areas and a thriving astronomy community, Australia is the ideal host for international projects such as the MWA and SKA.”

The MWA is located at the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory. It is about 350 kilometres north-east of Geraldton in Western Australia and will also be the site of the SKA.

As part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Australian Government has committed $294 million over 10 years to host the SKA. The SKA will deliver significant economic, scientific and technological benefits. Construction is due to begin in 2020.

Media contact: Minister Cash's office 02 6277 7320