Square Kilometer Array To Be Shared By Australasia, South Africa
May 28, 2012
The Square Kilometer Array radio telescope will be deployed in both Australia-New Zealand and South Africa, announced the international SKA Organization on Friday.
AsianScientist (May 28, 2012) – Members of the SKA Organization agreed on Friday to a dual site solution for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) telescope, a crucial step towards building the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.
Factors taken into account during the site selection process included levels of radio frequency interference, the long term sustainability of a radio quiet zone, the physical characteristics of the site, long distance data network connectivity, the operating and infrastructure costs, as well as the political and working environment.
The dual-site implementation model was favored by the majority of the members who did not bid to host the SKA (Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom).
In the report from the SKA Site Advisory Committee, the members noted that both sites were well suited to hosting the SKA, but that they identified South Africa as the preferred site. Splitting the project into two sites will not only make the project inclusive, but it will also maximize returns on the investments that have been made so far, the report noted.
Envisioned as the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, the SKA will have a total collecting area of approximately one square kilometer, giving 50 times the sensitivity and 10,000 times the survey speed of the best current-day telescopes.
The telescope aims to address fundamental questions about the evolution of the Universe including the formation of black holes, the nature of gravity, and origins of the first stars.
“This hugely important step for the project allows us to progress the design and prepare for the construction phase of the telescope. The SKA will transform our view of the Universe; with it we will see back to the moments after the Big Bang and discover previously unexplored parts of the cosmos.” said Dr. Michiel van Haarlem, Interim Director General of the SKA Organization.
The target construction cost is €1,500 million and construction of Phase I of the SKA is scheduled to start in 2016 with sets of antennas with complementary frequencies to be placed on each continent and then networked together.
According to the SKA website, the majority of SKA dishes in Phase I will be built in South Africa, combined with MeerKAT. Further SKA dishes will be added to the ASKAP array in Australia. All the dishes and the mid frequency aperture arrays for Phase II of the SKA will be built in Southern Africa while the low frequency aperture array antennas for Phase I and II will be built in Australia-New Zealand.
In Australia, the area that will be used for the core of Australian SKA activity is the CSIRO operated Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia. The site already hosts CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope as well as other experiments such as the Murchison Widefield Array, and is protected by a radio quiet zone.
Source: SKA; Photo: SPDO/TDP/DRAO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions; CSIRO.
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