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Swinburne Offered Federal Grant to Lead Design of Square Kilometre Array’s Pulsar Signal Processor

Swinburne University of Technology has been offered a $638,000 grant from the Federal Government to lead the design of astronomical instrumentation for the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

The funding is part of a $19 million package being made available to Australian organisations to help design the ground-breaking project, announced by Minister for Science and Research, Senator Don Farrell.

The international science project, which will change the way radio astronomy is done worldwide, will be co-hosted in Australia and South Africa.

The SKA will be the world's largest radio telescope and is being funded by countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas as well as Australia and New Zealand.

"Swinburne will lead the design of the SKA's pulsar signal processor, which will enable a variety of experiments designed to challenge our understanding of gravity and test Einstein's General Theory of Relativity," Faculty of Communication and Information Technologies senior lecturer and project leader, Dr Willem van Straten, said.

Swinburne is a partner in an international consortium led by the National Research Council of Canada, which also includes the Science and Technology Facilities Council (UK), Oxford University, the University of Manchester, the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), SKA South Africa and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.

In June, this consortium will submit a larger proposal to lead the design of the SKA Central Signal Processor. The Australian SKA Pre-Construction Grants are conditional upon the recipients being selected by the International SKA Organisation to undertake SKA work packages, worth around $114 million.

When complete, the SKA will be used to search for pulsars in tight orbits around other massive objects, such as black holes, and use these to explore the limits of our best theory of gravitation.

The SKA will also observe a large number of the fastest spinning pulsars and use these to detect subtle ripples in space time known as gravitational waves, such as those produced during the birth of the Universe and by the orbital motion of super-massive black holes in the centres of galaxies.


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