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The world's quietest radio astronomy site

Our Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, known as 'the MRO', is one of the best locations in the world to operate telescopes that listen for radio signals from space.

The MRO is home to our ASKAP radio telescope as well as other international radio astronomy projects. We currently host the Curtin University-led Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and Arizona State University's Experiment to Detect the Global Epoch of Reionization Signature (EDGES) instrument.

We're also preparing the MRO for one of the two SKA telescopes. The SKA telescopes will be the largest and most capable radio telescopes in the world and promise to answer some of the biggest questions about our Universe.

Radio telescopes at the MRO detect radio waves at similar frequencies to digital TV broadcasts and 4G mobile networks. This means that the telescopes must be located a long way from human settlements, so that terrestrial signals don’t interfere with the weaker signals coming from natural sources in space, which is why the MRO is one of the best places in the world for radio astronomy.

Indigenous Land Use Agreement

Many partners have come together to create an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) for the MRO to operate, and to ensure educational, social and economic benefits flow to the traditional owners of the site, the Wajarri people.

The ILUA includes a cadetship program that runs for the life of the telescopes and our staff visit the remote Pia Community School as part of a mentoring program. We’ve also co-created resources on Wajarri culture and the MRO. A new ILUA for the future SKA-Low telescope will expand on these benefits.

Radio quiet zone

The Australian and Western Australian Governments have established a ‘radio quiet’ zone to protect this unique radio astronomy site from noise created by modern life.

The zone is an area 520km in diameter, centred on the MRO, in which licenced communications and electronic devices such as television transmitters, mobile telephones base stations and CB radios are controlled to limit electromagnetic interference to the radio telescopes on site.

World-leading radio astronomy in the Aussie outback

See all the innovative technology that we’ve brought together to create the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in the remote mid-west region of Western Australia.

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[Image shows a starry sky with a spinning earth globe, which zooms in on Western Australia. Concentric blue lines move around a point, and text appears: Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory]

[Image changes to show a red earth desert landscape, and the camera pans across the landscape]

[Image changes to show a series of telescopes and the text appears: CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope, Surveying the structure and evolution of the universe]

[Image changes to show the telescopes from directly above, then shows two vehicles driving between the telescopes]

[Image changes to follow the two vehicles, then focuses on the telescopes]

[Image changes to show a closer image of the telescope, and the text appears: Equipped with wide-field phased array receivers, CSIRO technology surveying the sky faster than ever before]

[Image changes to show the landscape with the telescopes]

[Image changes to show tracks on a desert landscape with two vehicles, then changes to show a checkerboard pattern installation of small telescopes]

[Image changes to show a closer view of the small telescopes and the text appears: Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) 4096-dipole antenna low-frequency telescope]

[Image shows the camera scanning around the telescopes and then zooms in on one telescope]

[Image changes to show a man’s face, and then changes to show the small telescopes]

[Image changes to show a signpost and text appears: MWSA has helped map more than 300,000 galaxies]

[Image changes to show a view from above, and then zooms further to show the entire installation]

[Image changes to show a complex of buildings and text appears: MRO Control Building, High tech custom supercomputing facility]

[Image changes to focus on one building, then an image appears of a woman walking through the door of the building]

[Image changes to show man walking along a corridor of glass doors, and passing through a door]

[Image changes to show bundled data cables connected to a blue grid, then zooms out to show stacks of similar objects]

[Image changes to show a vehicle driving towards a large solar array power station, and text appears: MRO Solar Hybrid Power Station, Astronomy’s first major hybrid energy system]

[Image changes to show the solar panels, and the camera pans along the panels]

[Image changes to show a shipping container, and text appears: One of Australia’s largest lithium-ion batteries (2.5MWh) Renewable energy storage – maximising the use of renewable power]

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[Image changes to show an aerial view of the battery site, then change to show a vehicle moving towards a circular pattern of antennae. Text appears: ‘AAVS’ Antenna Test Platform, Testing the next generation of telescope technology]

[Image changes to show two men walking amongst an array of base plate rings on the ground, then shows the two men working on a triangular antenna above a ring]

[Image changes to show an array of triangular antennae, and text appears: New antenna and software technology will pave the way for the Square Kilometre Array telescope]

[Images pan through of two men working on the antennae, an aerial view of the site, and a series of completed antennae. Text appears: Square Kilometre Array, 131,000 antennas build in Australia from 2020 along with hundreds of dish antennas in South Africa]

[Image changes to pan across a series of square kilometre array antennas dotting the landscape around a telescope]

[Image changes to show the blue sky, and then shows a starry sky]

[Image changes to show the Square Kilometre Array logo, the CSIRO logo, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research Logo, the Australian Government logo and the Western Australian logo]

[Text appears: We acknowledge the Wajarrai Yamaji as the traditional owners of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) site. The MRO and the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope are managed and operated by CSIRO – The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope is an international collaboration led and operated by Curtin University – The ‘AAVS’ test platform is an initiative of the Aperture Array Design and Construct (AADC) SKA consortium hosted by the MWA – The international Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is a joint venture between Curtin University and the University of Western Australia]

Our Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in outback WA is helping astronomers explore the Universe.

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MRO infrastructure

Key infrastructure that supports the radio telescopes on site to explore our Universe.

Power station

The remote location of the MRO ensures a radio quiet operating environment but makes access to basic infrastructure like roads and power a challenge. In partnership with Australian companies Horizon Power and Energy Made Clean, we’ve constructed a dedicated power station for the MRO. This consists of a solar array, a lithium-ion battery, and four diesel generators. It is the world’s first hybrid-renewable facility to power a major remote astronomical observatory.

Control building

The large amounts of data produced by the telescopes on site require significant customised computing power. Computers and other essential electronics are housed in a specially designed control building that prevents electromagnetic interference from escaping: it has two layers of solid metal shielding and airlock doors designed to meet exacting international radio emissions standards. The transport of signals from the telescopes to the control building is via optical fibres.

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