On 25 May 2012, the Members of the SKA Organisation agreed on a dual site solution for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope, a crucial step towards building the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.
The ASKAP and MeerKAT precursor dishes will be incorporated into Phase I of the SKA, which will deliver more science and will maximise on investments already made by both Australia and South Africa.
The majority of SKA dishes in Phase 1 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.
“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.” says Dr Michiel van Haarlem, Interim Director General of the SKA Organisation.
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.
About the Square Kilometre Array
The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes. Thousands of receptors will extend to distances of 3 000 km from the centre of the telescope.
The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the Universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth.
The target construction cost is €1 500 million (almost R16 billion) and construction of Phase 1 of the SKA is scheduled to start in 2016.
The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters in Manchester UK, was established in December 2011 as a not-for-profit company in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and centralise the leadership of the project.