Hello again Murchison Shire

I’m writing this from the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory again. Yep, I’ve managed to get myself back up here! This time I’m travelling as part of the grand prize that ICRAR awarded to the top member of theSkyNet as part of our first anniversary celebration. We celebrated a year of achievements on September 13th – it’s almost hard to believe how much we’ve managed to get done in only twelve months.

[Haven’t heard of theSkyNet? Drop everything and watch this other video, then join us! It’s worth it, promise!]

Outreach is a messy business sometimes! My office the day before the trip (Pete was testing out our new wideangle lens for the Outreach camera.)

Outreach is a messy business sometimes! My office the day before the trip (My boss, Pete, was testing out our new wideangle lens for the ICRAR Outreach camera.) Photo: Pete Wheeler

Since the beginning of theSkyNet we’d been promising a trip to the Murchison to see the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) and the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) as the grand prize. Our anniversary seemed like a good time to award it, and we were excited to take our winner – Kim Hawtin or vk5fj – up to the desert to see everything that’s been going on up there.

I was also not-so-secretly excited to be making my third trip to the MRO and to see the progress that has been made on the MWA and ASKAP since I was last there.

We set off from Perth bright and early yesterday morning, ready for the 8.5 hour car trip. Perhaps ready isn’t the right word, but there was definitely a good feeling in the car as we headed off on the trip.

Kim and Pete, up front as we head out of Perth.

Kim and Pete, up front as we head out of Perth.

We also brought theSkyNet team member and astronomer Tim Young along for the ride too. Conversation obviously centred on theSkyNet for the first little while, but started to branch off by the time we reached the outskirts of Perth.

Heading North out of Perth via the Swan Valley. Kim's comment 'it's not really very valley like'.

Heading North out of Perth via the Swan Valley. Kim’s comment ‘it’s not really very valley like’ (Kim lives in Adelaide’s hills.)

The trip up to the MRO is about 600km tarmac and then a further 200km on dirt roads, peppered with small towns and different terrain the whole way.

Tim checking our route in the map book, and working out how much longer until we hit the dirst roads.

Tim checking our route in the map book, and working out how much longer until we hit the dirt roads.

While only about halfway to Boolardy, the terrain changes again to rolling fields and blue skies.

At only about halfway to Boolardy, the terrain changes to rolling fields and blue skies.

Lunch break in Morrowa, hanging out out the front of the visitor's centre on the main strip.

Lunch break in Morowa, hanging out in front of the visitor’s centre on the main strip.

After lunch, the time spent sitting trapped in a metal box started to take its toll on us all…

Tim prepares for Halloween tomorrow (or just blocks out the Sun for a snooze...)

Tim prepares for Halloween tomorrow (or just blocks out the Sun for a snooze…)

Tim checking through his photos of the trip so far.

Tim checking through his photos of the trip so far, good entertainment for the long hours stuck in the ute.

Many road trains (and real trains) later, we got to the end of the tarmac!

The intersection between tarmac and dirt road, where Pete stops for a break up in the ute's tray.

The intersection between tarmac and dirt road, where Pete stops for a break, up in the ute’s tray.

We've hit the dirt!

We’ve hit the dirt! About 200 km to go until we get to Boolardy Station now, all on dirt roads.

We then took the windy path from past Mullewa out to Boolardy Station where we spent the night.

I look up from the directions to the MRO to a camera lens in my face! Photo: Tim Young.

I look up from the directions to the MRO to a camera lens in my face! Photo: Tim Young.

We got in to Boolardy about 5pm, but instead of heading in and getting ready for dinner we ducked straight out to the MRO site to meet MWA engineer Brian and astronomer Martin so we could set up our camera for a timelapse of the night sky over the MWA. The timelapse isn’t quite ready yet, but here’s a little teaser of one of the images for you.

Our favourite tile of the MWA, with the breakaway to the South West.

Our favourite tile of the MWA, with the breakaway to the South West lit by the full Moon with some faint stars peeking through the clouds.

Hopefully we’ll be able to share the full thing in the next few days (we’re also going to take another one tonight.)

We’re about halfway through a fun filled day at site right now (it included getting to go inside an ASKAP dish!) More on that tomorrow.

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About Kirsten Gottschalk

Outreach and Education Officer at The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). I was lucky enough to join our engineers and 'student army' to build a good share of the Murchison Widefield Array, the low frequency precursor to the Square Kilometre Array on the future SKA site in WA. All images and content on this blog are copyright, unless otherwise attributed. If you'd like to use any of my photos, send me an email and I'd be happy to help - kirsten.gottschalk@icrar.org

6 responses to “Hello again Murchison Shire

  1. Hi all, good to see some pictures, and you made it to the station safely. Kim hope your enjoying the trip, also remember to charge your phone and take some picture hihi. And… do you guys happen to have any Amateur Radio gear there and maybe up for QSO on 40m band in the evening?

  2. Hi Dale, great to hear from you! Unfortunately no Amateur Radio Gear in a radio quiet zone πŸ™‚ Kim’s been taking a bunch of pictures already, but I’ll pass your message on.

  3. Hi Kirsten, Thanks for the info, can understand the radio quiet zone, still be nice place to make some contacts from being so quiet interference wise. Anyways good luck and hope all goes well πŸ˜‰

  4. Reblogged this on Dale's Random Ramblings πŸ˜‰ and commented:
    VK5FJ and the start of his fantastic trip to Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory as part of theSkyNet project.

  5. Wesley Beck (VK6WX)

    Great to see the reports coming through again Kirsten. Good to see you and Pete at the SKA Board reception at Fraser’s. I and the students and staff of Mount Barker Community College wish you and the crew every success with this current trip.

  6. Joe

    Kirsten, Really glad you looked up from directions. Great picture.

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Copyright Notice

All images and content on this blog is copyright. I'd be happy to help you out if you want to use any text or images that I've produced, simply send me an email - kirsten.gottschalk@icrar.org - and we can chat about it.
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