Winter 2022 MWA update

A man in jeans and a white linen shirt kneeling next to metal spider-like antennas with a red rock geological feature in the background.
MWA Principal Engineer, A/Prof Randall Wayth, at MWA tile number 117. Credit: ICRAR/MWA.

One of the long-held facts of the MWA telescope is that there is a maximum limit to how much it can process at once. This limit, in terms of field equipment, is 16 receivers, and it has existed ever since the MWA’s inception.

That is, until a few weeks ago! In late 2021, MWA Principal Engineer A/Prof Randall Wayth discovered a way to use our existing equipment to observe with more than 16 receivers. This was only possible with our new processing machinery (the MWAX correlator, introduced in the Spring MRO News last year), and took a lot of engineering know-how to remove the many hard-coded limits in our software, and also to create and install a new receiver.

All that work resulted in the 17th receiver commissioned in early 2022 and fully operational by the start of the recent observing semester in June!

Having more antennas in the array can improve its resolution, which is great news for the astronomers who study radio sources with detailed structure, like galaxies. This also opens the door to adding other new receivers in the future, and makes our telescope more flexible in its operations. We thank the engineering and site teams for all their hard work in making a 17th receiver possible!

Mia Walker, Project Officer, MWA