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Australia unveils ASKAP telescope

Australia has launched one of the world’s fastest telescopes tasked with surveying outer space and probing the origins of stars and galaxies.

The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) in Western Australia’s outback has 36 antennas with a diametre of 12 m (40 ft) each.

The A$152 million ($155 million) telescope is expected to capture radio images, starting from Friday.

ASKAP forms part of the world’s biggest radio telescope project.

The telescope is located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, 315 km (196 miles) north-east of Geraldton in the Western Australian desert.

Dr. John O’Sullivan, from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, says that while the telescope is not very big, “it is still a very, very powerful survey instrument to start to get a look [at] the origins of galaxies”.

“It is the beginning of a great new period, I think,” he said.

The ASKAP is part of the bigger Square Kilometre Array (SKA) that is set to begin construction in 2016.

SKA, set to become the world’s biggest radio telescope project based in both South Africa and Australia, aims to answer key questions about the Universe.