J.-P. Macquart

Curtin University Australia, Bentley, Western Australia, Australia

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Publications (68)201.09 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We present observations of high-amplitude rapid (2 s) variability toward two bright, compact extragalactic radio sources out of several hundred of the brightest radio sources in one of the 30x30 deg MWA Epoch of Reionization fields using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) at 155 MHz. After rejecting intrinsic, instrumental, and ionospheric origins we consider the most likely explanation for this variability to be interplanetary scintillation (IPS), likely the result of a large coronal mass ejection propagating from the Sun. This is confirmed by roughly contemporaneous observations with the Ooty Radio Telescope. We see evidence for structure on spatial scales ranging from <1000 km to >1e6 km. The serendipitous night-time nature of these detections illustrates the new regime that the MWA has opened for IPS studies with sensitive night-time, wide-field, low-frequency observations. This regime complements traditional dedicated strategies for observing IPS and can be utilized in real-time to facilitate dedicated follow-up observations. At the same time, it allows large-scale surveys for compact (arcsec) structures in low-frequency radio sources despite the 2 arcmin resolution of the array.
    07/2015; 809(1). DOI:10.1088/2041-8205/809/1/L12
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    ABSTRACT: Impulsive radio bursts that are detectable across cosmological distances constitute extremely powerful probes of the ionized Inter-Galactic Medium (IGM), intergalactic magnetic fields, and the properties of space-time itself. Their dispersion measures (DMs) will enable us to detect the "missing" baryons in the low-redshift Universe and make the first measurements of the mean galaxy halo profile, a key parameter in models of galaxy formation and feedback. Impulsive bursts can be used as cosmic rulers at redshifts exceeding 2, and constrain the dark energy equation-of-state parameter, $w(z)$ at redshifts beyond those readily accessible by Type Ia SNe. Both of these goals are realisable with a sample of $\sim 10^4$ fast radio bursts (FRBs) whose positions are localized to within one arcsecond, sufficient to obtain host galaxy redshifts via optical follow-up. It is also hypothesised that gravitational wave events may emit coherent emission at frequencies probed by SKA1-LOW, and the localization of such events at cosmological distances would enable their use as cosmological standard sirens. To perform this science, such bursts must be localized to their specific host galaxies so that their redshifts may be obtained and compared against their dispersion measures, rotation measures, and scattering properties. The SKA can achieve this with a design that has a wide field-of-view, a substantial fraction of its collecting area in a compact configuration (80\% within a 3\,km radius), and a capacity to attach high-time-resolution instrumentation to its signal path.
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    ABSTRACT: The SKA will discover tens of thousands of pulsars and provide unprecedented data quality on these, as well as the currently known population, due to its unrivalled sensitivity. Here, we outline the state of the art of our understanding of magnetospheric radio emission from pulsars and how we will use the SKA to solve the open problems in pulsar magnetospheric physics.
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    ABSTRACT: The magneto-ionic structures of the interstellar medium of the Milky Way and the intergalactic medium are still poorly understood, especially at distances larger than a few kiloparsecs from the Sun. The three-dimensional (3D) structure of the Galactic magnetic field and electron density distribution may be probed through observations of radio pulsars, primarily owing to their compact nature, high velocities, and highly-polarized short-duration radio pulses. Phase 1 of the SKA, i.e. SKA1, will increase the known pulsar population by an order of magnitude, and the full SKA, i.e. SKA2, will discover pulsars in the most distant regions of our Galaxy. SKA1-VLBI will produce model-independent distances to a large number of pulsars, and wide-band polarization observations by SKA1-LOW and SKA1-MID will yield high precision dispersion measure, scattering measure, and rotation measure estimates along thousands of lines of sight. When combined, these observations will enable detailed tomography of the large-scale magneto-ionic structure of both the Galactic disk and the Galactic halo. Turbulence in the interstellar medium can be studied through the variations of these observables and the dynamic spectra of pulsar flux densities. SKA1-LOW and SKA1-MID will monitor interstellar weather and produce sensitive dynamic and secondary spectra of pulsar scintillation, which can be used to make speckle images of the ISM, study turbulence on scales between ~10^8 and ~10^13 m, and probe pulsar emission regions on scales down to $\sim$10 km. In addition, extragalactic pulsars or fast radio bursts to be discovered by SKA1 and SKA2 can be used to probe the electron density distribution and magnetic fields in the intergalactic medium beyond the Milky Way.
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    ABSTRACT: Using the new wideband capabilities of the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA), we obtain spectra for PKS 1718-649, a well-known gigahertz-peaked spectrum radio source. The observations, between approximately 1 and 10 GHz over three epochs spanning approximately 21 months, reveal variability both above the spectral peak at ~3 GHz and below the peak. The combination of the low and high frequency variability cannot be easily explained using a single absorption mechanism, such as free-free absorption or synchrotron self-absorption. We find that the PKS 1718-649 spectrum and its variability are best explained by variations in the free-free optical depth on our line-of-sight to the radio source at low frequencies (below the spectral peak) and the adiabatic expansion of the radio source itself at high frequencies (above the spectral peak). The optical depth variations are found to be plausible when X-ray continuum absorption variability seen in samples of Active Galactic Nuclei is considered. We find that the cause of the peaked spectrum in PKS 1718-649 is most likely due to free-free absorption. In agreement with previous studies, we find that the spectrum at each epoch of observation is best fit by a free-free absorption model characterised by a power-law distribution of free-free absorbing clouds. This agreement is extended to frequencies below the 1 GHz lower limit of the ATCA by considering new observations with Parkes at 725 MHz and 199 MHz observations with the newly operational Murchison Widefield Array. These lower frequency observations argue against families of absorption models (both free-free and synchrotron self-absorption) that are based on simple homogenous structures.
    The Astronomical Journal 12/2014; 149(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-6256/149/2/74 · 4.05 Impact Factor
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    J. Y. Koay · J. -P. Macquart
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    ABSTRACT: We investigate the feasibility of detecting and probing various components of the ionized intergalactic medium (IGM) and their turbulent properties at radio frequencies through observations of scatter broadening of compact sources. There is a strong case for conducting targeted observations to resolve scatter broadening (where the angular size scales as ∼ν−2) of compact background sources intersected by foreground galaxy haloes and rich clusters of galaxies to probe the turbulence of the ionized gas in these objects, particularly using Space very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) with baselines of 350 000 km at frequencies below 800 MHz. The sensitivity of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) allows multifrequency surveys of interstellar scintillation (ISS) of ∼ 100 μJy sources to detect or place very strong constraints on IGM scatter broadening down to ∼ 1 μas scales at 5 GHz. Scatter broadening in the warm–hot component of the IGM with typical overdensities of ∼30 cannot be detected, even with Space VLBI or ISS, and even if the outer scales of turbulence have an unlikely low value of ∼1 kpc. None the less, intergalactic scatter broadening can be of the order of ∼ 100 μas at 1 GHz and ∼ 3 μas at 5 GHz for outer scales ∼1 kpc, assuming a sufficiently high-source redshift that most sight-lines intersect within a virial radius of at least one galaxy halo (z ≳ 0.5 and 1.4 for 1010 and 1011 M⊙ systems, following McQuinn 2014). Both Space VLBI and multiwavelength ISS observations with the SKA can easily test such a scenario, or place strong constraints on the outer scale of the turbulence in such regions.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 10/2014; 446(3). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stu2268 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Interstellar scintillation (ISS) has been shown to be primarily responsible for the short term intraday variability (IDV) exhibited by extragalactic sources at centimeter wavelengths (e.g. Bignall et al. 2006 and references therein). For a source to scintillate its angular size must be comparable to that of the first Fresnel zone (Narayan 1992) which implies microarcsecond angular sizes for screen distances of tens to hundreds of parsecs. This has the potential to probe within a few light months of the central black hole (Bignall et al. 2006). The aim of the Microarcsecond Scintillation-Induced Variability (MASIV) survey was to provide a catalogue of at least a hundred AGNs that vary on timescales of hours to days to provide the basis of detailed studies of the IDV population drawn from a well-defined sample.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 10/2014; 9(S304):110-111. DOI:10.1017/S1743921314003500
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    ABSTRACT: The Micro-arcsecond Scintillation-Induced Variability (MASIV) Survey and its follow-up observations have provided large datasets of AGN intra-day variability (IDV) at radio wavelengths. These data have shown that IDV arises mainly from scintillation caused by scattering in the ionized interstellar medium (ISM) of our Galaxy, based on correlation with Galactic latitudes and line-of-sight Galactic electron column densities. The sensitivity of interstellar scintillation (ISS) towards source angular sizes has provided a new tool for studying the most compact components of radio-loud AGNs at microarcsecond (μas) scale resolution - much higher than any ground-based radio interferometer. We present here key results from the MASIV Survey and its follow-up observations, and point to relevant papers where these results have been published.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 10/2014; 9(S304):415-416. DOI:10.1017/S1743921314004463
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    A. G. de Bruyn · J. -P. Macquart
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    ABSTRACT: We examine the long-term evolution of the intra-hour variable quasar, J1819+3845, whose variations have been attributed to interstellar scintillation by extremely local turbulent plasma, located only 1-3pc from Earth. The variations in this source ceased some time between June 2006 and February 2007. The evolution of the source spectrum and the long-term lightcurve, and the persistent compactness of the source VLBI structure indicates that the cessation of rapid variability was associated with the passage of the scattering material out of the line of sight to the quasar. We present an analysis of the linear polarization variations and their relation to total intensity variations. The proper motion of polarized features in the quasar jet is found to be subluminal. Systematic time delays between Stokes I, Q and U, in combination with the structure of the source obtained from 8.4GHz VLBI data, confirm the estimate of the screen distance: 1-2pc, making the screen one of the nearest objects to the Solar System. We determine the physical properties of this scattering material. The electron density in the scattering region is extremely high with respect to the warm ionized ISM, with an estimated density of $n_e \sim 97 \, l_0^{1/3} {\Delta L}_{100}^{-1/2}$cm$^{-3}$, where $l_0$ is the outer scale of the turbulence in AU and $\Delta L = 100 \Delta L_{100}$ AU is the depth of the scattering region. If this plasma is in pressure balance with the local magnetic field, one expects a ~2 rad/m^2 rotation measure change associated with the passage of this material past the quasar. We examine the rotation measures of sources and the diffuse polarized emission in the surrounding region. We place a limit of 10 rad/m^2 on the RM change. The variability of sources near J1819+3845 is used to deduce that the screen must therefore be either very small (~100 AU) or patchy.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 08/2014; 574. DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/201220522 · 4.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present a search for transient and variable radio sources at 154 MHz with the Murchison Widefield Array 32-tile prototype. Fifty-one images were obtained that cover a field of view of 1430 deg^2 centred on Hydra A. The observations were obtained over three days in 2010 March and three days in 2011 April and May. The mean cadence of the observations was 26 minutes and there was additional temporal information on day and year timescales. We explore the variability of a sample of 105 low frequency radio sources within the field. Four bright (S > 6 Jy) candidate variable radio sources were identified that displayed low levels of short timescale variability (26 minutes). We conclude that this variability is likely caused by simplifications in the calibration strategy or ionospheric effects. On the timescale of one year we find two sources that show significant variability. We attribute this variability to either refractive scintillation or intrinsic variability. No radio transients were identified and we place an upper limit on the surface density of sources rho < 7.5 x 10^-5 deg^-2 with flux densities > 5.5 Jy, and characteristic timescales of both 26 minutes and one year.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 11/2013; 438(1). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stt2200 · 5.23 Impact Factor
  • J.-P. Macquart · L. E. H. Godfrey · H. E. Bignall · J. A. Hodgson
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    ABSTRACT: We describe a new tool for studying the structure and physical characteristics of ultracompact active galactic nucleus (AGN) jets and their surroundings with μas precision. This tool is based on the frequency dependence of the light curves observed for intra-day variable radio sources, where the variability is caused by interstellar scintillation. We apply this method to PKS 1257-326 to resolve the core-shift as a function of frequency on scales well below ~12 μas. We find that the frequency dependence of the position of the scintillating component is rν–0.1 ± 0.24 (99% confidence interval) and the frequency dependence of the size of the scintillating component is dν–0.64 ± 0.006. Together, these results imply that the jet opening angle increases with distance along the jet: with nd > 1.8. We show that the flaring of the jet, and flat frequency dependence of the core position is broadly consistent with a model in which the jet is hydrostatically confined and traversing a steep pressure gradient in the confining medium with and np 7. Such steep pressure gradients have previously been suggested based on very long baseline interferometry studies of the frequency dependent core shifts in AGNs.
    The Astrophysical Journal 02/2013; 765(2):142. DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/765/2/142 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    Ue-Li Pen · J. P. Macquart · Adam Deller · Walter Brisken
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    ABSTRACT: We use VLBI imaging of the interstellar scattering speckle pattern associated with the pulsar PSR 0834+06 to measure the astrometric motion of its emission. The ~ 5AU interstellar baselines, provided by interference between speckles spanning the scattering disk, enable us to detect motions with sub nanoarcsecond accuracy. We measure a small pulse deflection of ~18+/-2 km (not including geometric uncertainties), which is 100 times smaller than the native resolution of this interstellar interferometer. This implies that the emission region is small, and at an altitude of a few hundred km, with the exact value depending on field geometry. This is substantially closer to the star than to the light cylinder. Future VLBI measurements can improve on this finding. This new regime of ultra-precise astrometry may enable precision parallax distance determination of pulsar binary displacements.
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    J. -P. Macquart · L. E. H. Godfrey · H. E. Bignall · J. A. Hodgson
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    ABSTRACT: We have used the broadband backend available at the ATCA to study the fast interstellar scintillation of quasar PKS 1257-326, resolving the core shift as a function of frequency on scales less than 10 microarcseconds. In this short paper we discuss the jet direction implied from the microarcsecond-scale core shift in PKS 1257-326.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 01/2013; 10(S313). DOI:10.1017/S1743921315002082
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    ABSTRACT: The fraction of compact active galactic nuclei (AGNs) that exhibit interstellar scintillation (ISS) at radio wavelengths, as well as their scintillation amplitudes, have been found to decrease significantly for sources at redshifts z > 2. This can be attributed to an increase in the angular sizes of the \muas-scale cores or a decrease in the flux densities of the compact \muas cores relative to that of the mas-scale components with increasing redshift, possibly arising from (1) the space-time curvature of an expanding Universe, (2) AGN evolution, (3) source selection biases, (4) scatter broadening in the ionized intergalactic medium (IGM) and intervening galaxies, or (5) gravitational lensing. We examine the frequency scaling of this redshift dependence of ISS to determine its origin, using data from a dual-frequency survey of ISS of 128 sources at 0 < z < 4. We present a novel method of analysis which accounts for selection effects in the source sample. We determine that the redshift dependence of ISS is partially linked to the steepening of source spectral indices ({\alpha}^8.4_4.9) with redshift, caused either by selection biases or AGN evolution, coupled with weaker ISS in the {\alpha}^8.4_4.9 < -0.4 sources. Selecting only the -0.4 < {\alpha}^8.4_4.9 < 0.4 sources, we find that the redshift dependence of ISS is still significant, but is not significantly steeper than the expected (1+z)^0.5 scaling of source angular sizes due to cosmological expansion for a brightness temperature and flux-limited sample of sources. We find no significant evidence for scatter broadening in the IGM, ruling it out as the main cause of the redshift dependence of ISS. We obtain an upper limit to IGM scatter broadening of < 110\muas at 4.9 GHz with 99% confidence for all lines of sight, and as low as < 8\muas for sight-lines to the most compact, \sim 10\muas sources.
    The Astrophysical Journal 06/2012; 756(1). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/756/1/29 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present time-resolved broad-band observations of the quasar 3C 279 obtained from multi-wavelength campaigns conducted during the first two years of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope mission. While investigating the previously reported gamma-ray/optical flare accompanied by a change in optical polarization, we found that the optical emission appears delayed with respect to the gamma-ray emission by about 10 days. X-ray observations reveal a pair of `isolated' flares separated by ~90 days, with only weak gamma-ray/optical counterparts. The spectral structure measured by Spitzer reveals a synchrotron component peaking in the mid-infrared band with a sharp break at the far-infrared band during the gamma-ray flare, while the peak appears in the mm/sub-mm band in the low state. Selected spectral energy distributions are fitted with leptonic models including Comptonization of external radiation produced in a dusty torus or the broad-line region. Adopting the interpretation of the polarization swing involving propagation of the emitting region along a curved trajectory, we can explain the evolution of the broad-band spectra during the gamma-ray flaring event by a shift of its location from ~ 1 pc to ~ 4 pc from the central black hole. On the other hand, if the gamma-ray flare is generated instead at sub-pc distance from the central black hole, the far-infrared break can be explained by synchrotron self-absorption. We also model the low spectral state, dominated by the mm/sub-mm peaking synchrotron component, and suggest that the corresponding inverse-Compton component explains the steady X-ray emission.
    The Astrophysical Journal 06/2012; 754(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/754/2/114 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: As a critical part of the Tracking Active Galactic Nuclei with Austral Milliarcsecond Interferometry (TANAMI) program, in November 2007 the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) started monitoring the radio spectra of a sample of southern hemisphere active galactic nuclei (AGN) that were selected as likely candidates for detection (as well as a control sample) by the Large Area Telescope (LAT) aboard the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Observatory. The initial sample was chosen based on properties determined from AGN detections by the Energetic Gamma Ray Experiment Telescope (EGRET). Most of the initial sample has been detected by Fermi/LAT and with the addition of new detections the sample has grown to include 226 AGN, 133 of which have data for more than one epoch. For the majority of these AGN, our monitoring program provides the only dynamic radio spectra available. The ATCA receiver suite makes it possible to observe several sources at frequencies between 4.5 and 41 GHz in a few hours, resulting in an excellent measure of spectral index at each epoch. By examining how the spectral index changes over time, we aim to investigate the mechanics of radio and gamma-ray emission from AGN jets.
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    ABSTRACT: The discovery that interstellar scintillation (ISS) is suppressed for compact radio sources at z >~ 2 has enabled ISS surveys to be used as cosmological probes. We discuss briefly the potential and challenges involved in such an undertaking, based on a dual-frequency survey of ISS carried out to determine the origin of this redshift dependence.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 04/2012; 7(S285):347-348. DOI:10.1017/S1743921312001020
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    J. -P. Macquart · R. D. Ekers · I. Feain · M. Johnston-Hollitt
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    ABSTRACT: We benchmark the reliability of the Rotation Measure (RM) synthesis algorithm using the 1005 Centaurus A field sources of Feain et al. (2009). The RM synthesis solutions are compared with estimates of the polarization parameters using traditional methods. This analysis provides verification of the reliability of RM synthesis estimates. We show that estimates of the polarization parameters can be made at lower S/N if the range of RMs is bounded, but reliable estimates of individual sources with unusual RMs require unconstrainted solutions and higher S/N. We derive from first principles the statistical properties of the polarization amplitude associated with RM synthesis in the presence of noise. The amplitude distribution depends explicitly on the amplitude of the underlying (intrinsic) polarization signal. Hence it is necessary to model the underlying polarization signal distribution in order to estimate the reliability and errors in polarization parameter estimates. We introduce a Bayesian method to derive the distribution of intrinsic amplitudes based on the distribution of measured amplitudes. The theoretically-derived distribution is compared with the empirical data to provide quantitative estimates of the probability that an RM synthesis solution is correct as a function of S/N. We provide quantitative estimates of the probability that any given RM synthesis solution is correct as a function of measured polarized amplitude and the intrinsic polarization amplitude compared to the noise.
    The Astrophysical Journal 03/2012; 750(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/750/2/139 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The extreme, intra-hour and >10% rms flux density scintillation observed in AGNs such as PKS 0405-385, J1819+3845 and PKS 1257-326 at cm wavelengths has been attributed to scattering in highly turbulent, nearby regions in the interstellar medium. Such behavior has been found to be rare. We searched for rapid scintillators among 128 flat spectrum AGNs and analyzed their properties to determine the origin of such rapid and large amplitude radio scintillation. The sources were observed at the VLA at 4.9 and 8.4 GHz simultaneously at two hour intervals over 11 days. We detected six rapid scintillators with characteristic time-scales of 10%. We found strong lines of evidence linking rapid scintillation to the presence of nearby scattering regions, estimated to be
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 10/2011; 534. DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/201117805 · 4.48 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

890 Citations
201.09 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2011–2014
    • Curtin University Australia
      • International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR)
      Bentley, Western Australia, Australia
  • 2009–2014
    • Curtin University
      Bentley, Western Australia, Australia
  • 2012
    • Nagoya University
      Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
  • 2010
    • International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research
      Perth City, Western Australia, Australia
  • 2007–2010
    • California Institute of Technology
      • Department of Astronomy
      Pasadena, California, United States
    • National Radio Astronomy Observatory
      Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
  • 2008
    • University of Tasmania
      • School of Mathematics & Physics
      Hobart Town, Tasmania, Australia
  • 2002–2007
    • University of Groningen
      • Kapteyn Astronomical Institute
      Groningen, Province of Groningen, Netherlands
  • 1998–2007
    • University of Sydney
      • School of Physics
      Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • 2003
    • University of Adelaide
      Tarndarnya, South Australia, Australia