The Sky at Night

The BBC’s The Sky at Night program is one the longest running TV shows in the world. It began in 1957 and was presented by Patrick Moore—a famousastronomy TV personality—for 55 years until he died in 2012.

At the end of May, the program’s presenter, Professor Chris Lintott, and a small crew came to Western Australia to record an entire episode in Perth and on site at the Murchison radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO).

The visit was supported and coordinated by ICRAR, CSIRO Astronomy and Space and the Australian SKA Office.

After shooting at a couple of locations in Perth, the crew were flown to the MRO with just 6 hours on site to get everything they needed for the 30-minute program.

Despite a frantic shot schedule encompassing EDGES, ASKAP, the MWA and AAVS1/SKA-low, the filming went extremely well and the episode aired in the UK on July 8th — it’s available for UK residents to watch online via BBC’s iPlayer until the middle of August.

The Aperture Array Verification System

Recently, ICRAR coordinated some filming on site at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) to collect digital assets for filmmakers and future projects — just in time for the BBC and The Sky at Night — and to produce a video to help communicate the Aperture Array Verification System (AAVS1).

The video features some great footage of the site, captured with drones and on the ground: https://vimeo.com/icrar/aavs1

AAVS1 is being used to help test and finalise the design of the low frequency antennas for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA-low). It was installed by an international team from Australia, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom over many months and the work is part of a global effort by 12 international engineering consortia representing 500 engineers and scientists in 20 countries.

Astronomical Citizen Science

ICRAR has created several programs that allow everyday citizens to assist in the scientific process and become involved in astronomical research.

‘Galaxy Explorer’ helped ICRAR’s astronomers classify and measure the spectra of more than 300,000 galaxies belonging to the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) survey. Co-led by Dr Ivy Wong at ICRAR-UWA, ‘Radio Galaxy Zoo’ asks citizen scientists to analyse images of galaxies with radio jets. A little different than the standard citizen science project, ‘theSkyNet’ used spare computing power during down times to help ICRAR researchers process astronomy data.

Recently, these projects led the ICRAR OEC team to secure $350,000 of funding to develop a new citizen science project called AstroQuest. Taking data from VISTA’s Kilo-degree Infrared Galaxy (VIKING) and the VST’s Kilo-Degree Survey (KiDs), AstroQuest will help analyse around 2 million galaxies and help train new machine learning algorithms for the Wide Area Vista ExtraGalactic Survey (WAVES) catalogue.

Keep an eye on icrar.org for the launch announcement.

Left: Galaxy correctly identified by the algorithm. Right: Galaxy incorrectly shredded by the algorithm.

New Scopes for Remote Telescopes Schools Initiative

SPIRIT is a world class internet accessible telescope initiativeforhigh school and undergraduate students in Western Australia and beyond. The initiative launched in 2010 with a single telescope, expanding to two telescopes in 2012.

In recent months, two more telescopes have added to the online observatory thanks to generous donations by Perth-based business owners.

SPIRIT III and SPIRIT IV are located at a dark-sky site an hour North of Perth, adding much needed capacity and capability to the program.

Through SPIRIT, schools are able to access the same tools used by researchers and astronomers to observe and collect astronomical data. Students book and then remotely access and control the instruments in ‘real time’ from their home or school computers using nothing more than a web browser.

SPIRIT is Australia’s only educational robotic telescope outreach initiative and a world leader in the growing field of Robotic Telescopes in Student Research and Education.

Report provided by ICRAR