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Enormous radio satellite begins scanning the heavens in Western Australia (VIDEO)


Antennas of CSIRO’s ASKAP telescope.


Dragonfly Media

Using radio waves to determine how the universe began? Believe it: the enormous new Australia Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder will use 36 40-foot-long antennas to monitor radio waves from space, in an ambitious scientific project that hopes to find out more about our planet's origins.

The Telegraph reports that the satellite, abbreviated conveniently as ASKAP, cost $152 million in Aussie dollars ($160 million in US currency), and can scan the sky with revolutionary speed due to so-called "radio cameras," or phased array feeds. The field of view will be about 150 times the area of the Moon, the Telegraph added.

The official opening of the satellite took place on Friday in a live webcast, and was hosted by Australian Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research.

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"In just its first six hours of operation ASKAP will generate more information than is currently held in the world's radio-astronomy archives," Evans said in a government press release.

"Each day, ASKAP's 36 antennas will generate enough data to fill 124 million Blu-ray disks which, if piled on top of one another, would stretch to a height of 62 kilometers," he added.

Askap will be located at the Murchison-Radio astronomy observatory in the Midwestern bit of Western Australia, says the project's website.

Australia's desolate and low-population Western coast happens to be the perfect place to plonk down a highly advanced radio satellite, as there's very little in the way of interference with the signal. You can even go visit the ASKAP site, though it's a long, dusty drive—and you want to bring extra water.

Askap, besides all these interesting features, will comprise a portion of the ambitious Square Kilometer Array, an international radio telescope projected to be both the most sensitive—and the largest—ever created.

Satellite components for the SKA will be built in Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Africa, according to the project website.

The ASKAP satellite's antennas will be named in the local Wajarri Yamatji Indigenous language, the government revealed Friday.