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Significant new opportunities for astrophysics and cosmology have been identified at low radio frequencies. The Murchison Widefield Array is the first telescope in the southern hemisphere designed specifically to explore the low-frequency astronomical sky between 80 and 300 MHz with arcminute angular resolution and high survey efficiency. The telescope will enable new advances along four key science themes, including searching for redshifted 21-cm emission from the EoR in the early Universe; Galactic and extragalactic all-sky southern hemisphere surveys; time-domain astrophysics; and solar, heliospheric, and ionospheric science and space weather. The Murchison Widefield Array is located in Western Australia at the site of the planned Square Kilometre Array (SKA) low-band telescope and is the only low-frequency SKA precursor facility. In this paper, we review the performance properties of the Murchison Widefield Array and describe its primary scientific objectives.
Digital signal processing is one of many valuable tools for suppressing unwanted signals or inter-ference. Building hardware processing engines seems to be the way to best implement some classes of interference suppression but is, unfortunately, expensive and time-consuming, especially if several miti-gation techniques need to be compared. Simulations can be useful, but are not a substitute for real data. CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility has recently commenced a ‘software radio telescope’ project designed to fill the gap between dedicated hardware processors and pure simulation. In this approach, real telescope data are recorded coherently, then processed offline. This paper summarises the current contents of a freely available database of base band recorded data that can be used to experiment with signal processing solutions. It includes data from the following systems: single dish, multi-feed receiver; single dish with reference antenna; and an array of six 22 m antennas with and without a reference antenna. Astronomical sources such as OH masers, pulsars and continuum sources subject to interfering signals were recorded. The interfering signals include signals from the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and its Russian equivalent (GLONASS), television, microwave links, a low-Earth-orbit satellite, various other transmitters, and signals leaking from local telescope systems with fast clocks. The data are available on compact disk, allowing use in general purpose computers or as input to laboratory hardware prototypes.
We present the design of, and a first analysis of data from, the atmospheric seeing monitor at the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA). The seeing monitor has been operational almost continuously since 2004 May and every 10min delivers a measurement of the atmospheric phase stability at the observatory. Its measurements can be used by observers to help in deciding whether it is worth carrying out observations at millimetre wavelengths or whether a longer-wavelength backup project should be observed. We present a statistical analysis of the data recorded since 2004 September to characterize the annual variations in atmospheric path length fluctuations. Our analysis shows that in terms of phase stability, nights in spring, summer, and autumn are as good as, or better than, days in winter. We also find that the data imply that the turbulence in the lower few hundred metres of the atmosphere is predominantly responsible for the atmospheric seeing.