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A new era in radio astronomy will begin with the upcoming large-scale surveys planned at the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP). ASKAP started its Early Science programme in October 2017 and several target fields were observed during the array commissioning phase. The Scorpio field was the first observed in the Galactic Plane in Band 1 (792–1 032 MHz) using 15 commissioned antennas. The achieved sensitivity and large field of view already allow to discover new sources and survey thousands of existing ones with improved precision with respect to previous surveys. Data analysis is currently ongoing to deliver the first source catalogue. Given the increased scale of the data, source extraction and characterisation, even in this Early Science phase, have to be carried out in a mostly automated way. This process presents significant challenges due to the presence of extended objects and diffuse emission close to the Galactic Plane.
In this context, we have extended and optimised a novel source finding tool, named Caesar, to allow extraction of both compact and extended sources from radio maps. A number of developments have been done driven by the analysis of the Scorpio map and in view of the future ASKAP Galactic Plane survey. The main goals are the improvement of algorithm performances and scalability as well as of software maintainability and usability within the radio community. In this paper, we present the current status of Caesar and report a first systematic characterisation of its performance for both compact and extended sources using simulated maps. Future prospects are discussed in the light of the obtained results.
We have observed the G23 field of the Galaxy AndMass Assembly (GAMA) survey using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) in its commissioning phase to validate the performance of the telescope and to characterise the detected galaxy populations. This observation covers ~48 deg2 with synthesised beam of 32.7 arcsec by 17.8 arcsec at 936MHz, and ~39 deg2 with synthesised beam of 15.8 arcsec by 12.0 arcsec at 1320MHz. At both frequencies, the root-mean-square (r.m.s.) noise is ~0.1 mJy/beam. We combine these radio observations with the GAMA galaxy data, which includes spectroscopy of galaxies that are i-band selected with a magnitude limit of 19.2. Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) infrared (IR) photometry is used to determine which galaxies host an active galactic nucleus (AGN). In properties including source counts, mass distributions, and IR versus radio luminosity relation, the ASKAP-detected radio sources behave as expected. Radio galaxies have higher stellar mass and luminosity in IR, optical, and UV than other galaxies. We apply optical and IR AGN diagnostics and find that they disagree for ~30% of the galaxies in our sample. We suggest possible causes for the disagreement. Some cases can be explained by optical extinction of the AGN, but for more than half of the cases we do not find a clear explanation. Radio sources aremore likely (~6%) to have an AGN than radio quiet galaxies (~1%), but the majority of AGN are not detected in radio at this sensitivity.
Radiocarbon (14C or carbon-14, half-life 5730 yr) is a key radionuclide in the assessment of the safety of a geological disposal facility (GDF) for radioactive waste. In particular, the radiological impact of gaseous carbon-14 bearing species has been recognized as a potential issue. Irradiated steels are one of the main sources of carbon-14 in the United Kingdom’s radioactive waste inventory. However, there is considerable uncertainty about the chemical form(s) in which the carbon-14 will be released. The objective of the work was to measure the rate and speciation of carbon-14 release from irradiated 316L(N) stainless steel on leaching under high-pH anoxic conditions, representative of a cement-based near field for low-heat generating wastes. Periodic measurements of carbon-14 releases to both the gas phase and to solution were made in duplicate experiments over a period of up to 417 days. An initial fast release of carbon-14 from the surface of the steel is observed during the first week of leaching, followed by a drop in the rate of release at longer times. Carbon-14 is released primarily to the solution phase with differing fractions released to the gas phase in the two experiments: about 1% of the total release in one and 6% in the other. The predominant dissolved carbon-14 releases are in inorganic form (as 14C-carbonate) but also include organic species. The predominant gas-phase species are hydrocarbons with a smaller fraction of 14CO (which may include some volatile oxygen-containing carbon-species). The experiments are continuing, with final sampling and termination planned after leaching for a total of two years.
The total 14C content and its speciation (inorganic/organic) were measured in spent ion exchange resins (SIERs) received from Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). Also, 14C release from SIERs was investigated by desorption tests carried out in alkaline solution relevant for cementitious environment disposal. The method used for total 14C measurement consists of combustion in oxygen-rich atmosphere, while for speciation measurements, both in SIERs and in desorption solutions, an analytical method based on acid stripping and wet oxidation was applied. Around 97% from the total 14C inventory measured on the Cernavoda SIERs (33.7 kBq/g) was found to be in inorganic form and only 7% as organic 14C. Under alkaline conditions, 14C could be released both as gaseous and as soluble species: from the total 14C present in the SIERs samples around 7% was released as inorganic 14C in the gas phase and 79% as dissolved species (mainly as inorganic 14C). These percentages were obtained for unconditioned SIERs in NaOH solution. The SIERs will be immobilized in a suitable matrix for disposal, and the presence of Ca ions dissolved in cement pore water favor precipitation of 14C and consequently the amount of 14C released from disposal area should be lower.
Implicit in the significant resources invested globally in SETI searches is the assumption that there is a small but finite probability that one such search will be successful in the next few years. The potential significance of such an event makes it essential to have contingency plans in place to deal with it. I describe the processes that are in place to deal with a SETI detection, including the SETI Post-Detection Committee and outline the challenges facing us.
Synthesis maps of stellar OH maser emission have revealed that the OH lies in expanding spherical shells typically about 1016 cm in diameter. From the maps and the expansion velocity, derived from the OH spectrum, stellar mass loss rates may be determined. Typical values are 10−5 M⊙/yr. An important application of the stellar OH masers is in the estimation of stellar distances.
Progress on the Australia Telescope, due for commissioning in 1988, is on schedule. When complete, the Australia Telescope will consist of a 6-km compact array and a Long Baseline Array which will, in collaboration with the University of Tasmania and NASA, use baselines up to 1400 km. Here I focus on the novel features of the Long Baseline Array, which is planned to use satellite linked local oscillators and VLBA data acquisition terminals to provide a VLBI network capable of expansion both within Australia and overseas.
The Parkes - Tidbinbilla Interferometer is a radio-linked interferometer using the 64-m telescope at Parkes together with one of the NASA antennas (34-m or 64-m) at Tidbinbilla. With a baseline of 275km, it is currently the world's longest real-time interferometer, and is usable at frequencies of 1.6, 2.3, and 8.4 GHz to give angular resolutions of 0.13, 0.09, and 0.03 arcsec respectively, with a sensitivity of 1–2 mJy rms in 5 minutes at a bandwidth of up to 10MHz.
A prompt radio burst has been observed from the supernova 1987a in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Observations were made at 0.843, 1.415, 2.29, and 8.41 GHz. At frequencies around 1 GHz, the peak flux density reached about 150 mJy and occurred within four days of the supernova. This event may be a weak precursor to a major radio outburst of the type previously observed in other extragalactic supernovae. Radio monitoring of the supernova is continuing at each of the above frequencies, and coordination is underway of a southern hemisphere VLBI array to map the radio outburst region as it expands. Differential astrometry carried out on prime-focus plates taken with the Anglo-Australian telescope indicates that the component, star 1, of Sanduleak's star SK-69202 is within 0.05 ± 0.13 arcsec of the supernova.
Perinatal exposure to nutrients and dietary components may affect the risk for coeliac disease (CD). We investigated the association between maternal use of vitamin D, n-3 fatty acids (FA) and Fe supplements during pregnancy and risk for CD autoimmunity (CDA) and CD in the offspring. Children at increased genetic risk were prospectively followed from birth in The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) study. CDA was defined as having persistently positive tissue transglutaminase autoantibodies (tTGA). Diagnosis of CD was either biopsy-confirmed or considered likely if having persistently elevated levels of tTGA>100 AU. Of 6627 enrolled children, 1136 developed CDA at a median 3·1 years of age (range 0·9–10) and 409 developed CD at a median 3·9 years of age (range 1·2–11). Use of supplements containing vitamin D, n-3 FA and Fe was recalled by 66, 17 and 94 % of mothers, respectively, at 3–4 months postpartum. The mean cumulative intake over the entire pregnancy was 2014 μg vitamin D (sd 2045 μg), 111 g n-3 FA (sd 303 g) and 8806 mg Fe (sd 7017 mg). After adjusting for country, child’s human leucocyte antigen genotype, sex, family history of CD, any breast-feeding duration and household crowding, Cox’s proportional hazard ratios did not suggest a statistically significant association between the intake of vitamin D, n-3 FA or Fe, and risk for CDA or CD. Dietary supplementation during pregnancy may help boost nutrient intake, but it is not likely to modify the risk for the disease in the offspring.
Most major discoveries in astronomy are unplanned, and result from surveying the Universe in a new way, rather than by testing a hypothesis or conducting an investigation with planned outcomes. For example, of the ten greatest discoveries made by the Hubble Space Telescope, only one was listed in its key science goals. So a telescope that merely achieves its stated science goals is not achieving its potential scientific productivity.
Several next-generation astronomical survey telescopes are currently being designed and constructed that will significantly expand the volume of observational parameter space, and should in principle discover unexpected new phenomena and new types of object. However, the complexity of the telescopes and the large data volumes mean that these discoveries are unlikely to be found by chance. Therefore, it is necessary to plan explicitly for unexpected discoveries in the design and construction. Two types of discovery are recognised: unexpected objects and unexpected phenomena.
This paper argues that next-generation astronomical surveys require an explicit process for detecting the unexpected, and proposes an implementation of this process. This implementation addresses both types of discovery, and relies heavily on machine-learning techniques, and also on theory-based simulations that encapsulate our current understanding of the Universe.
Africa is experiencing a rapid increase in adult obesity and associated cardiometabolic diseases (CMDs). The H3Africa AWI-Gen Collaborative Centre was established to examine genomic and environmental factors that influence body composition, body fat distribution and CMD risk, with the aim to provide insights towards effective treatment and intervention strategies. It provides a research platform of over 10 500 participants, 40–60 years old, from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. Following a process that involved community engagement, training of project staff and participant informed consent, participants were administered detailed questionnaires, anthropometric measurements were taken and biospecimens collected. This generated a wealth of demographic, health history, environmental, behavioural and biomarker data. The H3Africa SNP array will be used for genome-wide association studies. AWI-Gen is building capacity to perform large epidemiological, genomic and epigenomic studies across several African counties and strives to become a valuable resource for research collaborations in Africa.
The tens of millions of radio sources to be detected with next-generation surveys pose new challenges, quite apart from the obvious ones of processing speed and data volumes. For example, existing algorithms are inadequate for source extraction or cross-matching radio and optical/IR sources, and a new generation of algorithms are needed using machine learning and other techniques. The large numbers of sources enable new ways of testing astrophysical models, using a variety of “large-n astronomy” techniques such as statistical redshifts. Furthermore, while unexpected discoveries account for some of the most significant discoveries in astronomy, it will be difficult to discover the unexpected in large volumes of data, unless specific software is developed to mine the data for the unexpected.
We describe the performance of the Boolardy Engineering Test Array, the prototype for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope. Boolardy Engineering Test Array is the first aperture synthesis radio telescope to use phased array feed technology, giving it the ability to electronically form up to nine dual-polarisation beams. We report the methods developed for forming and measuring the beams, and the adaptations that have been made to the traditional calibration and imaging procedures in order to allow BETA to function as a multi-beam aperture synthesis telescope. We describe the commissioning of the instrument and present details of Boolardy Engineering Test Array’s performance: sensitivity, beam characteristics, polarimetric properties, and image quality. We summarise the astronomical science that it has produced and draw lessons from operating Boolardy Engineering Test Array that will be relevant to the commissioning and operation of the final Australian Square Kilometre Array Path telescope.
The traditional cultures of Aboriginal Australians include a significant astronomical component, perpetuated through oral tradition, ceremony, and art. This astronomical knowledge includes a deep understanding of the motion of objects in the sky, which was used for practical purposes such as constructing calendars and for navigation. There is also evidence that traditional Aboriginal Australians made careful records and measurements of cyclical phenomena, recorded unexpected phenomena such as eclipses and meteorite impacts, and could determine the cardinal points to an accuracy of a few degrees. Putative explanations of celestial phenomena appear throughout the oral record, suggesting traditional Aboriginal Australians sought to understand the natural world around them, in the same way as modern scientists, but within their own cultural context. There is also a growing body of evidence for sophisticated navigational skills, including the use of astronomically based songlines. Songlines are effectively oral maps of the landscape, and are an efficient way of transmitting oral navigational skills in cultures that do not have a written language. The study of Aboriginal astronomy has had an impact extending beyond mere academic curiosity, facilitating cross-cultural understanding, demonstrating the intimate links between science and culture, and helping students to engage with science.
In this paper I describe a new software package (“AIPS++”) being written by a consortium of seven astronomical institutions spread over four continents. I start by describing the background to the project, followed by a summary detailing what AIPS++ is and why it is being written in this way. Section 3 describes the challenge of running a globally distributed project spread over four continents. Finally I describe the current status and an estimated completion date.
We discuss new observations of the starburst galaxy NGC 7552. From optical and near–infrared colour maps we find a red, dusty circumnuclear ring. High-resolution radio mapping from the ATCA reveals the same ring, and a number of bright blobs (probably SNRs). The ring is probably associated with gas and dust which have lost angular momenta due to torques in the bar potential and settled at the inner Lindblad resonance. These circumnuclear starburst rings may be relatively common (when mapped without the obscuring affects of dust) and may play a role in collimating material of a nuclear outflow.
The Southern Hemisphere VLBI Experiment (SHEVE) program is aimed at producing high-resolution images of southern radio sources. The radio telescopes of the present SHEVE array are described below and some recent results presented.
Activity in galaxies takes on a bewildering array of guises. Not all of this diversity comes from fundamentally diverse physics, but if we can understand the relationships between different types of galaxy then we may be able to perceive the underlying physics. This taxonomic approach aims to determine which properties are common to several types of galaxy, and which properties differ. The danger in this process is that it is easy to invent spurious relationships between similar, but quite distinct, types of object.
Masers have been well studied as indicators of star formation regions for over three decades. Their small size, high brightness, and narrow velocity width mean that we can measure their position and velocity with enormous accuracy, and so they stand out as high-precision signposts amidst the swirling gas that they sample. Nevertheless, in most cases the complexity of their kinematics has defied attempts to use them to unravel the processes of star formation. However, the last two or three years have seen a resurgence of interest in these masers because of exciting new evidence that, in some cases, they are tracing with high precision the kinematics of material in circumstellar disks around massive stars. The very existence of circumstellar disks around these massive stars is puzzling, and yet the maser results have now been confirmed by other data at radio and infrared wavelengths. In this paper I will review the current status of high-resolution maser observations, discuss some of the puzzles that are now confronting us, and speculate on where our current tentative steps may lead us.