International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ASKAP telescope

Mains level: Not Much

A powerful new telescope ASKAP, in Australia has mapped vast areas of the universe in record-breaking time, revealing a million new galaxies and opening the way to new discoveries.

Note all important telescopes in news and their features. Some of them are – Thirty Meter Telescope, Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope, Spitzer, Chandra etc.

What is ASKAP?

  • ASKAP is a telescope designed over a decade ago and located about 800 km north of Perth.
  • It became fully operational in February 2019 and is currently conducting pilot surveys of the sky before it can begin large-scale projects from 2021 onward.
  • ASKAP surveys are designed to map the structure and evolution of the Universe, which it does by observing galaxies and the hydrogen gas that they contain.
  • One of its most important features is its wide field of view, because of which it has been able to take panoramic pictures of the sky in great detail.
  • The telescope uses novel technology developed by CSIRO- the Australian space agency, which is a kind of a “radio camera” to achieve high survey speeds and consists of 36 dish antennas, which are each 12m in diameter.
  • The survey team has been able to observe over 83 per cent of the sky visible from ASKAP’s site in Western Australia.

Significance of the results

  • The present Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey (RACS) taken by the ASKAP telescope is like a “Google map” of the Universe.
  • Mapping the Universe on such a scale enables astronomers to study the formation of stars and how galaxies and their supermassive black holes evolve and interact with each other.
  • Significantly, the images the telescope has taken are on average deeper and have better spatial resolution compared to those taken during other surveys of the sky.
  • The aim of the RACS survey is to generate images that will aid future surveys undertaken using the telescope.

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