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Cavendish Astrophysics


This video shows an aerial view of the MRAO, focusing on the Aperture Array Verification System (AAVS0) array, the first ever array demonstrator using the SKA-low log-periodic antennas designed at Cambridge. The AAVS0 array has been used since its construction in 2012 to characterise SKA technology (antennae, low noise amplifiers, receiver systems, back-end digital systems, etc.). It is about to be upgraded with SKALA-2 antennae and new electronics and optical systems which are a step closer to the final SKA front-end designs.

The SKA will be the largest radio astronomy instrument of the world at cm wavelengths by the time of its completion. The SKA-low, covering the low frequency band of SKA from 50 to 350 MHz will be a massive aperture array made of more than 250,000 antenna elements in Phase I and several millions in Phase II ( This array will help astronomers unveil some of the mysteries of our Universe, capturing data from the “Dark ages” all the way through to the “first light”. Its great sensitivity and survey capabilities will also make a superb instrument to study pulsars and Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

The filming was done by one of our members of staff at the MRAO, Clive Shaw, with a small radio controlled helicopter and an on board camera. The video shows the 16 element array in a random configuration with the coaxial cables connecting the low noise amplifiers to the receivers cabin. The antennae are placed on top of a metallic ground mesh and a concrete platform 15 m in diameter. The central pole supporting each antenna is screwed to a metal bolt inserted into the concrete platform. The new version of SKALA, SKALA2 will be supported by 4 extension legs and an individual heavy base instead of a central pole to help with their deployment in the Western Australian desert.