Realisation of a low frequency SKA Precursor: The Murchison Widefield Array
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The Murchison Widefield Array is a low frequency (80 - 300 MHz) SKA Precursor, comprising 128 aperture array elements distributed over an area of 3 km diameter. The MWA is located at the extraordinarily radio quiet Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory in the mid-west of Western Australia, the selected home for the Phase 1 and Phase 2 SKA low frequency arrays. The MWA science goals include: 1) detection of fluctuations in the brightness temperature of the diffuse redshifted 21 cm line of neutral hydrogen from the epoch of reionisation; 2) studies of Galactic and extragalactic processes based on deep, confusion-limited surveys of the full sky visible to the array; 3) time domain astrophysics through exploration of the variable radio sky; and 4) solar imaging and characterisation of the heliosphere and ionosphere via propagation effects on background radio source emission. This paper will focus on a brief discussion of the as-built MWA system, highlighting several novel characteristics of the instrument, and a brief progress report (as of June 2012) on the final construction phase. Practical completion of the MWA is expected in November 2012, with commissioning commencing from approximately August 2012 and operations commencing near mid 2013. A brief description of recent science results from the MWA prototype instrument is given.
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