It is being used to survey the Milky Way for methanol masers at 6.7 GHz, signposts of the very early stages of star-formation. The Parkes Radiotelescope detects the methanol emission while the young stars are still forming, deep inside giant molecular clouds of gas and dust. Installation began on 16th Jan 2006 when the receiver was lifted to the focus cabin. A movie of the installation is here (Windows wmv format). Epping engineers (Graham Moorey, Pat Sykes, Les Reilly, Paul Doherty) worked with local Parkes staff (with late-night and weekend efforts from Brett Dawson, Ken Reeves and John Reynolds) to finally achieve first light in the small hours of Sunday 22nd January. The first spectra show methanol emission at 6668 MHz and excited OH emission at 6035 MHz from the source G309.21+0.48. A profile of the source is shown below.
The first of many discoveries from the survey is a star-forming region that lies in the inner Galaxy at a distance of 22,000 light years. The source (see below) was christened James I by the observing team.
In its first 9 days the receiver detected 53 new stars. Once the Southern Milky Way has been searched, which is expected to take 100 days, the multibeam receiver will be transported to Jodrell Bank Observatory to survey the Northern Milky Way.
Jim Caswell & Jim Cohen