Marsden success for Dr Melanie Johnston-Hollitt

Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope field by moonlight
Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope field. Photo credit Chris Thorne.

Dr Melanie Johnston-Hollitt was this week named as one of the recipients of the prestigious Marsden Fund for 2012.

The Marsden grant will allow Dr Johnston-Hollitt to pursue some of the most important questions in astrophysics through her work with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the largest radio astronomy telescope project in the world, currently under pre-construction in Australia and South Africa.

As a partner in the SKA, New Zealand will contribute to some of the largest sky surveys ever done. Dr Johnston-Hollitt and Sydney-based astronomer Professor Ray Norris from CSIRO will embark on this ambitious project using two SKA pre-cursor telescopes to catalogue the characteristics and locations of diffuse radio emissions in galaxy clusters. These emissions will be in the form of cluster relics - believed to be the result of shockwaves left by colliding galaxy clusters, or radio halos - shown by clusters that are merging or disturbed.

The data collected will help answer such fundamental questions as how large-scale magnetic fields in the universe are formed.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh is delighted with the result.

"The Marsden grant process is a highly competitive one, and the successful Victoria researchers should be very proud.

"The University prides itself on its ground-breaking and highly relevant research, research which creates new knowledge for the benefit of society."