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Fun Facts

Q. How big are the antennas?
A. Each dish is 22 meter in diameter and the telescope is about 23 meters tall when pointing straight up.

Q. How much do the antennas weigh?
A. Each one weighs 230 tonnes. That is more than an empty Jumbo Jet (Boeing 747).

Q. How long is the track?
A. The East-West rail track is 3km long, but there is a sixth antennas another 3km further West giving a maximum East-West baseline of 6km. The North spur track is 214m long.

Q. How far can the telescope see?
A. That's a difficult question, radio telescopes can see bright radio galaxies a billion lightyears away, and very bright objects called quasars more than 10 billion lightyears away. That means the radio waves from those quasars started their journey towards us before the earth even existed.

Q. What does the ATCA look at?
A. Radio telescopes like the ATCA look at a wide variety of things, but not often at the things you can easily see at night, like stars and planets. Instead they are used to study the gas between the stars in our Galaxy and other galaxies. They also look at distant radio galaxies which have huge plumes of radio emission around them and study galaxies and quasars with very bright cores which are thought to contain supermassive black holes.

Q. What does the telescope do during the daytime?
A. A great advantage of radio telescopes is that they can observe day and night. The sun is a bright radio source, but as long as you are not looking straight at it, you can still see faint radio sources right next to it. So the telescope is used 24 hours a day by teams of astronomers who take over from each other when their favourite objects rise and set.

Q. What is the biggest 'virtual' telescope the ATCA has been part of?
A. The ATCA is regularly used in combination with other telescopes in Australia (like 'the Dish' at Parkes), forming the Australian Long Baseline Array. This extends from Tasmania to Narrabri and Ceduna (SA) and is about 1500km across. The data from all these telescopes is combined using optical fibre links. Sometimes worldwide networks of telescopes observe together with antennas in space to make VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) arrays bigger than the Earth.

Original: Mark Wieringa (14-Aug-2013)