An award-winning technology designed by Australia’s CSIRO will be exported to Germany and installed on the massive Effelsberg radio dish, helping the world’s astronomers look for more of the fast radio bursts that signal supermassive black holes and other deep space phenomena. The tech, already in use within Australia, let scientists scan much larger sections of the sky during their research, turning astronomy from a combination of guesswork and luck into a more reliable process.
The technology is question is CSIRO’s phased array feed, originally developed for the Square Kilometre Array network in Western Australia. Where a normal radio telescope receiver only allows a telescope to scan a small section of the sky using its massive focused dish, the phased array groups up to 188 receivers next to each other arranged in a pattern that allows 36 simultaneous beams to be broadcast and tracked.
Phased array feeds make certain kinds of radio astronomy, including the scanning for fast radio bursts, up to 100 times faster than traditional methods. As well as an application on radio telescopes, phased array feeds can potentially be developed and used to improve the speed and coverage of ground- and satellite-based wireless networks and radio imaging technology, as well as for medical imaging. For an explainer on how phased array feeds work, take a look at this CSIRO video.