Spring 2023 MWA update

Egg-shaped objects are painted in a distinctive Central - Mid Aboriginal design
Large MWA 3D beam pattern, painted by Margaret Whitehurst, Yamaji Art. Mini MWA 3D beam patterns painted by Dylan Kerley and Nichole Dickerson, Yamaji Art.
Large MWA 3D beam pattern, painted by Margaret Whitehurst, Yamaji Art. Mini MWA 3D beam patterns painted by Dylan Kerley and Nichole Dickerson, Yamaji Art. Image credit: Curtin University

Radio astronomy meets art

A long history of collaboration between the MWA and the Yamaji Art centre in Geraldton has centred around Wajarri artwork depicting the night skies. Recently, Yamaji artists showcased their amazing talent once more by painting a bizarre object – none other than the ‘beam pattern’ of an MWA antenna tile.

Beam patterns illustrate how the MWA telescope sees the sky, the taller the ‘bubble’ in the beam pattern, the greater the sensitivity. The MWA can point in different directions without having any moving parts by electronically steering this beam around the sky to receive signals from far-away stars and galaxies. The beam patterns shown in these images have a ‘zenith’ (overhead) pointing, meaning the antenna tile is effectively looking straight up! Our MWA technologies webpage  has a visual representation of this work and more information on beam patterns and beam forming.

3D printed white rounded forms on a white table with a white backdrop.
The blank ‘canvas’ before the Yamaji artists worked their magic. Image credit: Curtin University

The original model of the beam pattern was created by ICRAR-Curtin research engineers Daniel Ung and Dr Maria Kovaleva, using data taken from the MWA telescope. It was then 3D-printed at approximately 20cm tall, ready to be ‘artified’.  Yamaji Art Manager and Emerging Artist, Roni Kerley, described the beam patterns as “absolutely petrifying to paint”, but the results are stunning  ̶ combining radio astronomy and art with an incredible amount of creativity.

These beautiful beam patterns were presented to the MWA Collaboration by Roni Kerley at an event to mark the 10-Year anniversary of MWA operations in July. To watch Roni’s presentation, head to the MWA YouTube Channel.

A woman in an Aboriginal-designed shirts holds a painted object while standing in front of large screens and at a lecturn.
Yamaji Art manager Roni Kerley presenting an ‘artified’ beam pattern at the MWA 10-year anniversary event. Image credit: Curtin University

Venus Chico and Mia Walker, MWA Project Support