7 Feb: Computing the Universe

Presented by Paul Hancock

Monday 7th February 2022, 6:30 to 8pm

Dr Paul Hancock will explain how radio telescopes collect information invisible to the human eye using techniques very different from optical astronomy. Optical telescopes can rely on physical lenses to collect and focus light and create images. Sadly there is no physical equivalent of a radio lens, and so the focusing and imaging of the radio light must be done virtually by a computer.

The new generation of radio telescopes are made with hundreds to hundreds of thousands of sensors, each collecting streams of radio waves. Modern radio telescopes thus require an enormous amount of computing resources just to make images. Radio astronomy is thus a very computational endeavour requiring a niche combination of astrophysics and computing skills to execute most projects.

This talk will cover some of the basic ideas of radio astronomy, discuss the current hot science topics, and show how Australian researchers are making the most of supercomputing facilities to support the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescopes, as well as how this all feeds into the construction of the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope. The photograph By Natasha Hurley-Walker is of the MWA prototype.


Dr Paul Hancock graduated with a PhD from the University of Sydney in 2011, where he studied the youngest radio galaxies using the Australia Telescope Compact Array. He was a night guide at Sydney Observatory.

Until 2013 Dr Hancock worked on the Variable And Slow Transients (VAST) project to build a software workflow that could process images from the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP). This software automated most of the work that was previously done by researchers to detect and characterise radio transients and variable radio sources. In 2013 Dr Hancock moved to Curtin University in order to use the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) to search for and understand variable radio sources and radio transients. Dr Hancock has developed many software tools and workflows to allow radio data to be processed more efficiently, and supports a number of science projects with the MWA and other radio telescopes around the world.

The keynote talk is preceded by Members presentations. Monty Leventhal OAM will present his solar observations and Robert Luxford will present his short movie about Near Earth Objects.

The Keynote usually starts around 7pm.

How to join in this live talk? Members will be sent a Zoom Link.

Not a Member? Email: sydneycityskywatchers@gmail.com 24 hours prior with your name and a contact phone number.