The $51 million Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio-telescope in the remote outback of Western Australia has been launched, boosting the nation's rapidly advancing radio-astronomy capabilities.
The low-frequency radio-telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, about 315km northeast of Geraldton, is a key precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, which will be the largest and most capable radio-telescope ever made.
The SKA will provide scientists with the farthest peek into the universe and therefore, time.
That $2 billion project will comprise 3000 dishes spanning South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, funded by a consortium of 20 nations.
Special Minister of State Gary Gray said the MWA was one of three precursors to the SKA.
'It is the only one that will focus on the collection of low frequency radio waves which will enable scientists, for the first time, to understand how the universe has evolved since the big bang,' Mr Gray said.
He said the MWA involved eight years' work between a consortium of 13 research institutes from Australia, India, New Zealand and the United States, led by WA's Curtin University.
WA Science and Innovation Minister John Day said the MWA would be the first of the three SKA precursor projects to be fully operational, with observations set to commence early next year.
The CSIRO's ground-breaking, 36-dish Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio-telescope, also at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, was officially launched last month.
The state government ensured large tracts of Mid West land were kept free of heavy industry to ensure radio quietness for the projects.