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Pawsey High-Performance Computing Centre for SKA Science: speech, Kensington.

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Ministers for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research


Australian Resources Research Centre Kensington, Western Australia

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We are here today to celebrate and increase Australia’s strength in astronomy, with the focus on our bid to host the Square Kilometre Array radio-telescope.

The Commonwealth and the Government of Western Australia are investing heavily in the infrastructure needed to support Australia’s bid.

Infrastructure like:

• the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope

• the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

• and - very soon - the new supercomputing facility we are naming today.

SKA teacher resource

Important as these investments are, they will count for nothing if we don’t have the skilled people to actually do the science.

The Pathfinder and SKA projects will demand the services of engineers, ICT specialists, astronomers and technologists for decades to come.

With this in mind, we need to ensure that Australia’s teachers understand the science behind the SKA and can share that understanding with their students - the SKA scientists of the future.

The Australian Government has responded to this need by investing $350,000 in a unique SKA science communication partnership between Questacon in Canberra and the Scitech Science Centre here in Perth.

Today it is my pleasure to launch the latest product of this very fruitful relationship.

Window to the Universe consists of twenty-one lessons introducing the electromagnetic spectrum, the science of the sky, and the technology of astronomy to students in Years 9 and 10.

Innovation Minister > Senator the Hon Kim Carr


Senator the Hon Kim Carr

27 Aug 2009

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Congratulations to everyone involved - including the education staff at the Australia Telescope National Facility - on a fine achievement.


When we talk about the infrastructure needed to support big science, the conversation always turns sooner or later to the question of computing power.

That’s why the Australian Government has acted decisively to kick-start construction of Australia’s $43 billion National Broadband Network.

It is also why our $1.1 billion Super Science Initiative includes $312 million for advanced ICT.

That includes two very substantial investments in high-performance computing:

• $50 million for a facility to be led by the Australian National University

• and $80 million for the facility to be built next door to us here in Perth.

The Perth centre will support the Australian SKA Pathfinder, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, and one day - we hope - the SKA itself.

To link it all together, the Government has identified a high-speed connection between Perth and Geraldton as a priority under the National Broadband Network’s Regional Backbone Blackspots Program.

Tenders closed earlier this month, and construction is expected to begin before year’s end.

Dr Joseph Lade Pawsey

The Perth high-performance computing centre will contribute to data-intensive research in many disciplines, including mineralogy and chemistry.

Nevertheless, its primary focus will be on astronomy and space science, and we wanted to reflect that in its name. Names are very important things.

Earlier this month I launched a competition that gives all Australians - from school kids to ancient mariners - the chance to name Australia’s new blue-water research vessel - another iconic Super Science project.

When it came to naming the new SKA computing facility, however, there was no contest.

Who else could we name it after but the father of Australian radio-astronomy, Dr Joe Pawsey?

Dr Pawsey was born in Ararat, Victoria, in 1908.

He completed his BSc and MSc at the University of Melbourne, before going on to do his PhD at Cambridge.

In 1940, he joined CSIRO’s radio-physics group, where he led a research team developing radar systems.

After World War Two he turned his attention to the study of radio emissions from the sun and other

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objects in space.

He is best remembered for his pioneering work in interferometry - which allows astronomers to increase the strength and resolution of the signals they collect by arranging radio-telescopes into a linked array.

This is precisely the principle underpinning the SKA.

After two decades at CSIRO - during which he co authored the first comprehensive text on radio-astronomy - Dr Pawsey was appointed director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia, in 1961.

Tragically, he died of a brain tumour the following year before taking up his new post.

Dr Pawsey was survived by his wife and three children, and it is a great honour to have his son Mr Hastings Pawsey and daughter-in-law Liz representing the family here today - thank-you for making the journey from Sydney.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography tells us that Joe Pawsey was a “straightforward, honest and humble” man who dedicated himself to nurturing junior researchers, and who was “scrupulous in acknowledging his colleagues’ achievements”.

Dr Pawsey may have been one of our greatest innovators in astronomy and physics, but he also understood the value of teamwork and collaboration.

The Pawsey High-Performance Computing Centre for SKA Science - which I hereby officially abbreviate to Pawsey Centre - will enshrine these values.

It will play a vital part in our great collective endeavour to understand the planet we live on and the universe beyond.

It will be a place of shared discovery worthy of its name.

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