Swinburne to lead pulsar timing instrument design

Thursday 8 June 2017

array of radio telescopes

The Square Kilometre Array project is an international effort to build the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope, eventually comprising over one million square metres of collecting area.

In summary

  • Swinburne researchers awarded $444,263 to complete design of the Square Kilometre Array pulsar timing signal processor
  • Once completed, the SKA will be the world's premier instrument for pulsar timing
  • It will enable a wide variety of experiments to challenge our understanding of space and time

Researchers at Swinburne have been awarded $444,263 by the Australian Government to complete the design of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) pulsar timing signal processor.

The highly specialised hardware and software designed by the team will enable some of the highest impact science with the SKA, including observations of radio pulsars to test Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Radio pulsars are one of nature's finest clocks and can be used to test the predictions of the theory of relativity with exquisite accuracy. By timing an array of pulsars distributed across the Galaxy, the SKA will search for the low-frequency gravitational waves created by super-massive black holes that orbit each other after galaxies merge

Pursuing this cornerstone science of the SKA requires a high-performance pulsar timing machine capable of the high-speed signal processing necessary to measure the arrival time of pulses with nanosecond precision. 

The SKA pulsar timing processor will use the latest computing hardware to achieve these goals for up to 16 pulsars simultaneously.

Once completed, the SKA will be the world's premier instrument for pulsar timing.

It will enable a wide variety of experiments designed to challenge our understanding of space and time.

“Ventures like this highlight the depth of expertise at Swinburne in science, technology and innovation – and in particular our leading role in astrophysics,” says Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Development, Professor Aleksandar Subic.

“The project is led by our new ARC Future Fellow Dr Adam Deller and Professor Matthew Bailes. Their work represents an important component of the SKA Preconstruction Grants Program.”

The SKA project is an international effort to build the world's largest and most sensitive radiotelescope, eventually comprising over a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area.

Swinburne is leading the pulsar timing instrument design in partnership with international collaborators at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy (MPIfR).

Construction of the SKA is expected to commence by 2019.