The Compact Array. Photo: David Smyth
The Compact Array. Photo: David Smyth

The Compact Array. Photo: David Smyth

In this post yesterday you might have seen our Compact Array telescope in NSW getting its groove on for the launch of Daft Punk’s latest album.

As you can tell, it’s a pretty high-tech setup.

The YouTube video in the post said ‘satellite dish’, but the Compact Array is actually a radio telescope, for doing astronomy.

There’s not just one dish, there’s six of them. They usually work together, as one telescope. And they can be moved around into different arrangements on the ground, like this —

The dishes are so sensitive that a mobile phone signal coming from Pluto would be really strong for them. When the scientists at the observatory want to heat their dinners, they can’t use a microwave oven if the telescope is observing at certain frequencies — any microwaves leaking out of the oven swamp the signals from the cosmos.

The Compact Array turns 25 this year. Come and party with us!

Open Day visitors about to climb a Compact Array telescope.

Open Day visitors about to climb a Compact Array dish.

Great technology, great engineers and great scientists have made the Compact Array one of the world’s leading radio telescopes.

And it hasn’t stood still. We’ve upgraded it over the years with new panels, new software, new receiving gear — everything. It’s now better than ever.

Astronomers have to fight to use it. For every six-month observing period, about 600 people (from almost 30 countries) apply to use the telescope. There isn’t enough time for all of them to have a go, so competition is fierce.

That’s despite the telescope working around the clock, seven days a week.

People throwing tomatoes at each other.

Astronomers getting down and dirty in the competition to use the Compact Array. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Here are some of the weird and wonderful bits of the Universe the Compact Array has looked at.

The eye of Sauron? Actually, it's a hole in stuff in our own Galaxy. A very big hole. Image: N. McClure-Griffiths et al

The eye of Sauron? Actually, it’s a hole in stuff in our own Galaxy. A very big hole. Image: N. McClure-Griffiths et al

Not our Galaxy but another one - the Circinus galaxy. Image: B. Koribalski et al

Not our Galaxy but another one – the Circinus galaxy. Image: B. Koribalski et al

A witchetty grub in space? No, it's the amazing galaxy PKS 0637-752. Image: L. Godfrey et al.

A witchetty grub in space? No, it’s the amazing galaxy PKS 0637-752. Image: L. Godfrey et al.

A man with a folded umbrella standing in front of telescope dishes.

Former director at the Compact Array, Dave McConnell … prepared to use the umbrella on unruly astronomers.