New outback telescope opens up the heavens

The 10 metre diameter Cangaroo II gamma ray telescope at Woomera, South Australia, March 2000 recently completed (the first of four).

The 10 metre diameter Cangaroo II gamma ray telescope at Woomera, South Australia, March 2000 recently completed (the first of four).
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The silhouette of the Cangaroo II telescope against a backdrop of star-trails and the large Magellenic cloud. Credit: M Mori,  University of Tokyo.

The silhouette of the Cangaroo II telescope against a backdrop of star-trails and the large Magellenic cloud. Credit: M Mori,  University of Tokyo.
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Night-time photograph of the $500,000 camera on the Cangaroo telescope. The shutter speed is one hundred millionth of a second. Credit: M Mori, University of Tokyo.

Night-time photograph of the $500,000 camera on the Cangaroo telescope. The shutter speed is one hundred millionth of a second. Credit: M Mori, University of Tokyo.
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A contour map of gamma ray emission from near the Vela pulsar as measured by Cangaroo I over the years 1993-1995.

A contour map of gamma ray emission from near the Vela pulsar as measured by Cangaroo I over the years 1993-1995.
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Tuesday, 9 May 2000

A $4 million telescope to be operated jointly by Adelaide University and the University of Tokyo is being opened at Woomera today by the Japanese Ambassador to Australia, Mr Masaji Takahashi.

The powerful 10-metre CANGAROO telescope will enable scientists at the International Astrophysical Observatory to make observations of radiation (gamma rays) from supernovas, pulsars and black holes.

It replaces the 3.8 metre telescope used at the Observatory since the two universities established the CANGAROO Project in 1992. (CANGAROO takes its name from Collaboration of Australia and Nippon for a Gamma Ray Observatory in the Outback). A contribution of $200,000 towards the cost of the telescope was provided by the Australian Research Council and the National Committee for Astronomy.

Further funds of around $10 million from the University of Tokyo will fund three additional telescopes at the site over the next four years. These will combine with the newly opened one to form CANGAROO 3, a powerful telescopic system expected to provide important new scientific findings. At least two other such systems will come into operation in the next few years and combine with forthcoming satellite programs.

Adelaide University Vice-Chancellor Professor Mary O'Kane said the CANGAROO project was an outstanding example of international cooperation in science.

"Over the last eight years the project has achieved significant scientific results and played an important part in training a new generation of astrophysicists," she said. "As well as the research component, the program provides training for Japanese and Australian PhD and Masters students.

"It underlines Adelaide University's commitment to the concept of research partnerships and confirms the University's stature as a research institution of international significance."

The Australian coordinator of the project, Associate Professor John Patterson of Adelaide University's Physics Department, said CANGAROO 3 would enable scientists to look for huge black holes at the centre of galaxies.

"They have an enormous effect on the energy of a galaxy, and how it evolves," he said. "We want to study what happens to their energy. From its centre, a black hole can shoot out a jet called a blazar like the axle from a wheel, and at huge velocities. Although we now have some theories about how they work, nobody really knows. At present, theorists from Adelaide University and the ANU are working on this problem."

 

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