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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Ska: Construction of the world’s largest telescope begins.

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One of the great science projects of the 21st century begins its construction phase on Monday. When completed in 2028, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will be the world’s largest radio telescope. Straddling South Africa and Australia and headquartered in the United Kingdom, the facility addresses some of the biggest problems in astrophysics. Perform the most rigorous tests of Einstein’s theory and search for extraterrestrial life. Delegates from eight countries leading the project will attend ceremonies in remote Murchison, Western Australia, and Karoo, Northern Cape, South Africa. Once the celebration is over, a bulldozer will arrive. “It’s time for that to happen,” said Professor Phil His Diamond, Director of the Square Kilometers His Array Organization.

“It’s been a 30-year journey. His first decade helped develop concepts and ideas. His next decade was spent developing technology. The telescope’s initial architecture includes about 200 parabolic antennas (“dishes”) and 131,000 dipole antennas that look a bit like Christmas trees. The goal is to build an effective collection area of ​​hundreds of thousands of square meters. This gives SKA unprecedented sensitivity and resolution when probing empty targets. The system operates over a frequency range of about 50 MHz and eventually up to 25 GHz. As for wavelength, this ranges from centimeters to meters. This will allow telescopes to detect extremely faint radio signals emanating from cosmic sources billions of light-years away from Earth, including signals emitted in the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang. “One is these ‘fast radio bursts that have been detected. These things release energy from our Sun in just one second, equivalent to his energy for one year. And I don’t know what they are. How is it? Possible? Hopefully, SKA will give us the answer. ”

The telescope will be built on a small scale in an area already used for radio astronomy.
Various procurement deals will be announced before and after the celebration. These will bring total government expenditure to date to just under €500m (£430m), with an expected final construction budget of €2bn. The first major milestone should be reached in 2024 when his four parabolic antennas in Australia and his six antenna stations in South Africa will work seamlessly together as the base telescope. This proof-of-principle moment will trigger the full rollout of the array. By 2028, SKA will have an effective collection area of ​​approximately 500,000 square meters. But the facility is designed so that it can continue to expand, perhaps to the coveted million square meters or one square kilometer. This can be achieved, among other things, by having more and more countries join the organization and provide the necessary funding.

Current members are:
South Africa, Australia, the UK, China, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, and Switzerland. These countries have ratified the Convention. France, Spain, and most recently Germany are on the road to accession. Canada, India, Sweden, South Korea, and Japan have indicated their intention to join at some point. “And we are talking to other countries to see what interest they have in joining the observatory,” said Professor Diamond.

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