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The Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

[An artist’s impression of the SKA at night]



The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is an intergovernmental radio telescope project being planned to be built in Australia and South Africa. Conceived in the 1990s, and further developed and designed by the late-2010s, if built it will have a total collecting area of approximately one square kilometre sometime in the 2020s. It would operate over a wide range of frequencies and its size would make it 50 times more sensitive than any other radio instrument. It would require very high performance central computing engines and long-haul links with a capacity greater than the global Internet traffic as of 2013. Initial construction contracts began in 2018. Scientific observations of the fully completed array is not expected any earlier than 2027. 

With receiving stations extending out to a distance of at least 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) from a concentrated central core, it would exploit radio astronomy's ability to provide the highest resolution images in all astronomy. The SKA would be built in the southern hemisphere, with cores in South Africa and Australia, where the view of the Milky Way Galaxy is the best and radio interference at its least. If built as planned, it should be able to survey the sky more than ten thousand times faster than before.


- Unprecedented Scale

The SKA will eventually use thousands of dishes and up to a million low-frequency antennas that will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and survey the entire sky much faster than any system currently in existence. Its unique configuration will give the SKA unrivalled scope in observations, largely exceeding the image resolution quality of the Hubble Space Telescope. It will also have the ability to image huge areas of sky in parallel a feat which no survey telescope has ever achieved on this scale with this level of sensitivity. With a range of other large telescopes in the optical and infra-red being built and launched into space over the coming decades, the SKA will perfectly augment, complement and lead the way in scientific discovery.


- The Key Science Goals

The SKA will be able to conduct transformational science, breaking new ground in astronomical observations. SKA scientists have focussed on various key science goals for the telescope, each of which will re-define our understanding of space as we know it. 

From challenging Einstein’s seminal theory of relativity to the limits, looking at how the very first stars and galaxies formed just after the big bang, in a way never before observed in any detail, helping scientists understand the nature of a mysterious force known as dark energy, the discovery of which gained the Nobel Prize for physics, through to understanding the vast magnetic fields which permeate the cosmos, and, one of the greatest mysteries known to humankind…are we alone in the Universe, the SKA will truly be at the forefront of scientific research.



[More to come ...]


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