Introducing the 700 Km Array

So you’ve heard about the Square Kilometre Array  or SKA, the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA), and the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array (PPTA)? But what about the 700 Kilometre Array, or 700KA, in inland rural Australia?

‘Array’ is a collective noun for an assemblage of entities that are connected in some way, sort of like a mob of sheep or a gaggle of geese. In astronomy, ‘array’ usually refers to a collection of very similar linked telescopes or observational objects. Our 700 Km Array is a different kind of collectivity though, because it includes hundreds of dissimilar observatories which are linked together conceptually by purpose, functionalities, technologies, geography and/or cultural heritage.

The 700KA observatories includes large radio and optical telescopes, many of them world-class; astronomical sites created by the region’s First Peoples over tens of thousands of years; C19th and C20th heritage sites from which migrants from the northern hemisphere and their descendants gazed at our southern inland sky for the first time; and hundreds of back yards, parks, paddocks, and other dark sky places from which C21st amateur astronomers are exploring the cosmos and gaining new insights.

Together these observatories form a fuzzy zone of astronomical significance stetching through 60,000 years of Earth time, and around 700 kilometres of Earth space, from Tidbinbilla and Mount Stromlo in the Australian Capital Territory, to Parkes in Central New South Wales, then north to Coonabarabran and Narrabri in the state’s north. From the mountains and valleys of Ngunnawal, Ngarigo, and Walgalu Country, across the vast riverine plains of Wiradjuri Country, and north through the plains and rugged ranges of  Gamilaraay Country.

More specifically, the 700KA includes the following sites of astronomical significance:

TidbinbillaDish_MerrillFindlayFeb2016-IMGP6340
One of the Tidbinbilla ‘dishes’ poking up from its valley at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at the southern end of our 700KA and Astronomy Trail. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 27 February 2016.

[Please note: this post is a work in progress. A fuller account of the 700 Kilometre Array and its Astronomy Trail will be added after I’ve had time to do more research. I’ve posted this preliminary outline now, however, because there has been so much interest in the concept since I first mooted it with associates at the beginning of March 2016.  Please visit again soon for more! MF, 5 March 2016.]

For further information about the Big Skies Collaboration and the people involved, explore the tabs on the top menu, or use our contact form.

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Page history
Page created 5 March 2016. Editorial revisions and several additions to the list of  700KA observatories made on 30 March 2016 after I returned from the 27th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) in Sydney over the Easter Weekend. Last revised 18-19 April 2016 with the addition of the Sydney Observatory following a series of emails and phone conversations with observatory manager, Marnie Ogg; and a direct link to the AAO after a very engaging phone conversation with astrophycist Andrew Hopkins, head of AAO’s Science and Outreach. Revised again 31 December 2016 to add Sydney University’s Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST) and its upgrade, UTMOST, which I somehow missed adding back in March 2016. And again on 5 January 2017, when I finally learned how to insert a google map showing the geographical extent of the 700KA.

Permalink: https://bigskiescollaboration.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/700ka-astronomy-trail/

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2 thoughts on “Introducing the 700 Km Array

  1. Here is another small piece of space history for you. Did you know that Australia was just the third nation after Russia and the US to launch their own spacecraft from their own territory? This happened on 29 November 1967, The satellite was built in Adelaide in just 11 months, tested at the Orroral tracking station and launched from Woomera in South Australia and was completely successful.
    (France did launch one before this but it was launched from Algeria and not from French home soil.)

    Regards,
    Philip Clark,
    Orroral Valley Tracking Station 1966 – 1985
    Former Senior Operations Supervisor.

    Like

    1. Many thanks Philip. I walked around the Orroral Valley Tracking Station on the same day as my visit to Honeysuckle Creek (September 2016) and took lots of photos, including one of the signage about the satellite as a note to myself to do more research on it! Unfortunately I’m a bit behind with my blog posts on my field visits. I did manage to post a response to Honeysuckle Creek but Orrorol Valley is still on my long To Do list, as is CSIRO’s Paul Wild Observatory at Narrabri, ANU’s Siding Spring Observatory and other places of significance in our 700KA. The site of your old tracking station is a very dramatic place now, with even more bare concrete slabs than Honeysuckle! I found it quite haunting. I’d love to interview you about what it was like working there in its heyday.

      Like

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