School of Physics Astrophysics


The Astrophysics group collaborates in the following national and international scientific projects and organisations.


The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is an international collaboration between Australian, American, and Indian institutions to build and operate a state-of-the-art, wide-field, low frequency radio telescope in the remote Australian outback (ideal for its radio quietness). The MWA is currently taking data with 128 tiles, and is a "pathfinder" experiment for a major future international astronomical project -- the Square Kilometer Array. The ultimate goal of the MWA telescope is to observe the birth of the first stars and galaxies in the early universe.  The Astrophysics group is involved in the prototype design, observations, research programs and leadership of this project. Please contact Rachel Webster or Stuart Wyithe for more information.


Artist's rendition of the low frequency component of the Square Kilometer Array, which will be located in western Australia.

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) is a radio telescope in development which will have a total collecting area of approximately one square kilometer. It will operate over a wide range of frequencies and its size will make it 50 times more sensitive than any other radio pathfinder. The SKA will be built either in South Africa or Australia, both in the southern hemisphere, where the view of our own own galaxy, the Milky Way, is best and radio interference least. With a budget of €1.5 billion, construction of phase 1 the SKA is scheduled to begin in 2018 with early science in 2020 and full operation by 2023. Uniquely, the SKA is a global collaboration of 19 countries which will revolutionise our understanding of the Universe by providing answers to fundamental questions about its origin and evolution.


One of the ASKAP radio antennas.

The Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) represents Australia's telescope contribution to this project and will operate at the higher radio frequency of 300MHz - 2GHz, relative to MWA which operates at 80 - 300MHz. Both ASKAP and MWA are co-located at the same site,  and both experiments will serve as vital testing grounds for the SKA.


Aerial view of one LIGO interferometer

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a collaboration seeking to detect gravitational waves (as predicted by Einstein in 1916 as a part of the theory of general relativity). The LIGO scientific collaboration seeks to detect gravitational waves, to use gravitational waves to explore the fundamental physics of gravity, and to develop gravitational wave observations as a tool of astronomical discovery. Work towards this goal includes research on, and development of techniques for, gravitational wave detection; and the development, commissioning and exploitation of gravitational wave detectors. The LIGO scientific collaboration is currently made up over 600 members from over 50 institutions and 11 countries. A/prof Andrew Melatos is the local lead at the University of Melbourne. His group's work with LIGO focuses on building theoretical models for gravitational wave emission and searching for gravitational waves in LIGO data.


The Magellan Telescopes are a pair of 6.5 m diameter optical telescopes located at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. The two telescopes are named after the astronomer Walter Baade and the philanthropist Landon Clay. 


The Gemini Observatory consists of twin 8-meter optical/infrared telescopes located on two of the best observing sites on our planet. From their locations on mountains in Hawai‘i and Chile, Gemini Observatory’s telescopes can collectively access the entire sky.

South Pole Telescope


The South Pole Telescope during Austral winter. Credit: Zak Staniszewski

The South Pole Telescope (SPT) is a 10-meter millimeter-wave telescope located at the South Pole in Antarctica. It is the largest telescope in Antarctica. The SPT is being used to make detailed maps of the cosmic microwave background - light from the early hot Universe three hundred thousand years after the Big Bang. Please contact Christian Reichardt for more information about the project.

POLARBEAR & the Simons Array


A rendition of what the Simons Array will look like when all three telescopes are installed.

POLARBEAR is an experiment to measure the polarization of the cosmic microwave background - relic light from the Big Bang. The POLARBEAR experiment is currently being upgraded from one telescope to three; the new three telescope array will be called the Simons Array. Please contact Christian Reichardt for information about the project.

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