New super telescope Down Under delivers unprecedented look at origins of heaven and earth

We’re about to get our clearest look yet into the origins of the universe thanks to the world’s fastest and most powerful radio telescope ever coming on line Down Under.

The super powerful radio telescope known as the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) is comprised of 36 dish antennas, each 40 feet across. The array is the fastest sky scanner yet. So fast, in fact, that what takes traditional arrays two years to complete it does in just five minutes. And it’s not just quick, it’s also thorough, collecting a Library of Congress-sized chunk of data each day.

The ASKAP is located in Murchison, a remote region deep in the Australian outback that’s approximately the size of West Virginia, and home to only about 120 people. The location has the ideal peace and quiet needed for intense listening, with no man-made radio interference.

So will the ASKAP be looking for aliens?

“It’s not a primary of many of these surveys, but it’s certainly a secondary goal that you almost get for free,” project director Brian Boyle told reporters. “As you’re surveying the sky, particularly over wide areas of sky looking for objects, you are also increasing the search volume for signals from extraterrestrial life.”

If you want to rent time on the array to scope out the cosmos you’ll have to wait in line. Scientists from around the world already have it booked for the next five years with interstellar quests including a census of near Earth galaxies.

The ASKAP is part of the international Square Kilometer Array (SKA), an even larger radio telescope that, when complete, will be the largest and most sensitive in the world.

Photo and Video via CSIRO