Jacqueline Hochheiser, Corporate Communications

Summary:

  • The Parkes Radio Telescope has detected half of the 2000 known pulsars in the universe and continues to lead in pulsar research using state-of-the-art technology in the radio astronomy field.
  • Mini-Circuits’ lumped element bandpass filters, were incorporated in the telescope’s cryogenic receiver.

Human understanding of the universe is constantly evolving, and RF technology is at the center of discovery in astronomical research. At the time of this writing, radio telescopes around the world have detected over 2,000 pulsars. Of those, the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia has discovered twice as many pulsars as all other telescopes combined. The Parkes Radio telescope is owned by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia’s national science research agency, and Mini-Circuits is proud to play a small part in supporting their extraordinary work.

If you’re not familiar with pulsars, they are a unique type of neutron star, a celestial object with a small radius and high density that’s primarily made up of neutrons. What makes pulsars unique from other neutron stars is their ability to radiate laser-like beams of radio waves that are comprised of x-rays, visible light, and gamma rays from two points of an axis. They also have one of the fastest rotation speeds of any known celestial object, reaching up to 700 rotations per second. Pulsars are so dense that just 1 tsp of a pulsar would weigh approximately one billion tons. These distinct properties have aided astronomers in understanding cosmic phenomena in a number of ways such as measuring space time and studying matter under extreme conditions.

In addition to having found half of all the known pulsars, the Parkes Radio telescope is also the largest single-dish telescope in the southern hemisphere. Its diameter measures about 210 ft, and weighs around 1000 tons. That’s nearly as heavy as two Boeing 747 aircrafts!

Radio telescopes are highly sensitive to environmental conditions such as geology and radio-interference. They are also a massive project to build. It took several years to find the ideal site and to build the telescope. Ultimately, it was decided that the telescope would be built in the central-west region of New South Wales and took three years to design and two years to build. Parkes Radio telescope was finally operational in October of 1961.

An artist’s rendition of a pulsar

Since its opening, the telescope has undergone many renovations to update its systems to assure its technology remains on the cutting-edge. The telescope is now 10,000 times more sensitive than it was when it was first built, and Mini-Circuits has helped it get there.

Parkes Radio Telescope, Photo Courtesy of CSIRO.

CSIRO is the leading operation in pulsar research as well as other studies of space including the evolution of galaxies, the properties of celestial magnetic fields and searching for black holes. CSIRO paves the road for new astronomical discoveries using multiple radio telescopes the organization has on site and Mini-Circuits is proud to support their efforts. CSIRO has installed two Mini-Circuits lumped element band pass filters into one of its telescopes. These filters are used in the cryogenic receiver of the instrument to help isolate frequency bandwidths that CSIRO wishes to investigate. The two components were custom built for CSIRO to withstand the intense cold temperature of the cryogenic receiver, as well as to maintain extremely low noise and prevent outside interference in received signals.

CSIRO’s work in the radio astronomy field is changing human understanding of the universe. Mini-Circuits looks forward to continuing to help their organization expand the world’s knowledge of pulsars and other space phenomena.