Australia's ASKAP (Australia Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder) radio telescope started up today with the aim of providing a clearer look at the origins of stars and galaxies than ever before. Located in the Western Australian outback, ASKAP consists of 36 huge antennas, each 40 feet across, that receive radio waves from space. According to Reuters, the radio telescope is the fastest in the world, achieving in five minutes what would take a traditional array two years.
Access to ASKAP is already booked out for the next five years as scientists from around the world scramble to put it to use. Dr. Brian Boyle, the director in charge of the project, told reporters that the study of radio waves "really push[es] the boundaries of our knowledge of the physical laws in the universe." Costing AUS$152 million (roughly $155 million) to build, the telescope will eventually form part of the international Square Kilometer Array (SKA) alongside a similar facility in South Africa. Another 60 antennas will be added to ASKAP before that project is completed, by which time the SKA will be the most sensitive radio telescope in the world; over 50 times more than any other array.