CSIRO listens to galaxy with upgrade to Parkes

What is arguably Australia’s most famous satellite has received an upgrade to its design this week, adding a special “bionic ear” that will listen to the song of space.

One of Australia’s biggest and most well-known satellites is getting an update, as The Dish sees a change that can help it see more.

Yes, it’s the same dish from the film “The Dish”, and while it was watching and listening for activity on the moon years ago, today it’s been upgraded with a $2.5 million instrument developed by the CSIRO, as well as several Australian universities alongside the Australian Research Council, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Max Planck Institute of Radioastronomy in Germany.

The upgrade will give the dish a change, adding what the CSIRO calls a bionic ear, what is essentially a new receiver to listen to frequencies being transmitted from stars and galaxies.

That means it will essentially look for the sounds of the universe, picking up on radio waves emitted from parts of our galaxy.

CSIRO Parkes satellite dish

“Stars and galaxies ‘sing’ with different voices, some high, some low,” said Dr George Hobbs, Astronomer at the CSIRO.

“It’s like a choir out there. Until now we’ve had receivers that heard just one part of the choir at a time,” he said. “This one lets us listen to the whole choir at once.”

According to the CSIRO, this adds to the many updates it has received over the years, and it is now 10,000 times more sensitive than when it was first built back in 1961.

The addition of this receiver widens the frequency range, and should let astronomers study the galaxy in more depth.

CSIRO, Parkes satellite - "The Dish"
©CSIRO, Wayne England
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