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The future of centimetre and metre-wave astronomy lies with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a telescope under development by a consortium of 17 countries that will be 50 times more sensitive than any existing radio facility. Most of the key science for the SKA will be addressed through large-area imaging of the Universe at frequencies from a few hundred MHz to a few GHz. The Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) is a technology demonstrator aimed in the mid-frequency range, and achieves instantaneous wide-area imaging through the development and deployment of phased-array feed systems on parabolic reflectors. The large field-of-view makes ASKAP an unprecedented synoptic telescope that will make substantial advances in SKA key science. ASKAP will be located at the Murchison Radio Observatory in inland Western Australia, one of the most radio-quiet locations on the Earth and one of two sites selected by the international community as a potential location for the SKA. In this paper, we outline an ambitious science program for ASKAP, examining key science such as understanding the evolution, formation and population of galaxies including our own, understanding the magnetic Universe, revealing the transient radio sky and searching for gravitational waves.
We used VLBI observations at 8.4 GHz between 1991 and 2005 to determine the motion of the RS CVn binary IM Pegasi (HR 8703), the guide star for the NASA/Stanford gyroscope relativity mission, Gravity Probe B (GP-B). The motion was determined relative to our primary reference, the core of the quasar 3C 454.3. The stability of this core was checked relative to two other extragalactic sources, B2250+194 and B2252+172, the former of which was tied to the ICRF. The core of 3C 454.3 is stationary relative to these two sources to within 30 μas yr−1 in each coordinate. IM Pegasi's radio morphology varies, but appears to be on average centered on the primary. We estimate the proper motion of IM Pegasi with a statistical standard error (sse) of 30 μas yr−1 in each coordinate. We also estimate the parallax with a statistical standard error of 75 μas and parameters of the orbit with sse's corresponding to 110 μas on the sky. Coupled with our upper limit of three times the sse on any systematic errors in each parameter %threefold higher upper limit on the systematic error contributions to each parameter estimate, these results ensure that the uncertainty of IM Pegasi's proper motion makes only a small contribution to the uncertainty of GP-B's tests of general relativity.
We report on 74 MHz and 330 MHz VLA observations of the plerionic supernova remnant 3C58. The radio spectral index, α, is uniform across the remnant to within 0.18, indicating a single source for the accelerated electrons. We find no emission from any shell surrounding the remnant. Our 3σ brightness limit on shell emission surrounding 3C58 is < 1.3×10−21 W m−2 Hz−1 sr−1 at 330 MHz.
Twenty-two consecutive VLBI images of supernova 1993J in the galaxy M81 taken over 7 years show, in unprecedented detail, the dynamic evolution of the expanding radio shell of an exploded star. High precision astrometry using phase-referencing shows that the supernova expands isotropically, and that its geometric center has a formal proper motion of 190±110 km s−1 w.r.t. the core of M81. Systematic changes in the images most likely reflect a pattern of inhomogeneities in the medium left over from the progenitor star, or possibly instabilities in the expanding shell. As the shockfront sweeps up the medium, it is progressively decelerated, and after 7 years it has slowed to less than 1/2 its original expansion velocity. SN1993J is likely now entering the early stages of the adiabatic phase common in much older supernova remnants.
Twenty consecutive VLBI images of supernova 1993J in M81 from the time of explosion to the present show the dynamic evolution of the expanding radio shell of an exploded star. No clear sign of a pulsar nebula, expected to have a spectral luminosity 10 to 1,000 times larger than that of the Crab, has yet been seen. The upper limit on the brightness at 8.4 GHz in the center of the shell in one of the latest images is 0.15 mJy per beam of 0.4 mas2, corresponding to a spectral luminosity of that of the Crab. Any nebula that may have formed in the center is probably still obscured by the surrounding thermal matter with no substantial filamentation having yet occurred in the latter.
We report on VLA and VLBI observations of the nucleus of the nearby spiral galaxy M81. The VLA observations show the flux density of the nucleus to be variable by 50%. The VLBI observations indicate that the structure of the nucleus of M81 is somewhat variable on timescales of weeks.
M81 has been shown to have a compact flat-spectrum core with a possible steep-spectrum jet. We report on position determinations of the brightness peak of the nucleus relative to the position of the early supernova 1993J with uncertainties as low as 0.08 mas. At early epochs, the supernova was largely pointlike at any frequency and therefore an ideal phase reference. We describe how VLBI astrometry at several frequencies could be used to support a model with a core and a one-sided jet for the nucleus of M81.
The NASA/Stanford Relativity Mission (Gravity Probe B) is to test the unverified “frame-dragging” prediction of general relativity through measurements of the precessions of orbiting gyroscopes. For mission accuracy goals to be met, the proper motion of a “guide star,” whose position will be used as an inertial reference, must be determined in an extragalactic reference frame with a standard error less than 0.5 mas/yr. We discuss our VLBI observations of the current guide-star candidates (radio stars HR 1099, HR 5110, and HR 8703) and our techniques for obtaining differential astrometric positions with the needed accuracy.
We present and describe recent radio observations of the Crab Nebula, which allow us to determine the magnetic field orientation and depolarization at unprecedented resolution. The observations were made in 1987-1988 using all four configurations of the VLA, at 1410,1515,4625, and 4885 MHz. The resulting maps were all convolved with a clean beam of 1.8″ × 2.0″, elongated in P.A. 80°, and the residuals added back in.
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