Australia hails surprise super-telescope decision

May 26, 2012
An artist impression released by the SPDO show dishes of the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope. Australia and South Africa will share the location for the world's most powerful radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array's scientific consortium announced.

Australia has hailed a surprise decision giving it a role in a radio telescope project aimed at revolutionising astronomy, vowing to draw on its decades of experience in space science.

Australia and South Africa were named joint winners of the (SKA) project following a meeting of the organisation's members in the Netherlands on Friday.

South Africa had been widely expected to win the bid outright and the dual site decision came as a surprise.

Australia was elated at winning a role in the ambitious SKA, which will use a forest of antennae, spread across remote terrain, to pick up radio signals from that cannot be detected by .

The SKA will be 50 times more powerful than current and will explore exploding stars, black holes, dark energy and traces of the Universe's origins some 14 billion years ago.

"It is exciting that Australia will play such a prominent role in what is one of the largest international collaborations in science," said the Australian government's chief scientist Ian Chubb.

The government science agency CSIRO said Australia was well qualified to take part in the SKA, with more than 60 years experience in including support of NASA's to the moon.

"This is a fantastic outcome for Australia, and for international science," said CSIRO chief Megan Clark.

Brian Boyle, director of the Australian bid, which was jointly prepared with and will include telescopes in New Zealand, said the project "will ensure that the expertise brought to the project is truly capitalised on".

Australia's core site is about 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Meekathara in the deep radio silence of its remote red-sand desert, with antennae distributed as far as New Zealand.

CSIRO said construction of the SKA would start in 2016, with 60 mid-frequency dishes and an array of low-frequency antennae.

Preliminary operations were expected to be under way by 2020.

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User comments : 3

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simplicio
not rated yet May 26, 2012
How will splitting array affect performance?
Egleton
not rated yet May 27, 2012
I wish the reporter had not included the comment of a politician.
It has lowered the tone of the article.
I try desperately to avoid the meaningless verbiage that issues from their primary orifices.
Graeme
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2012
Megan Clark is a geologist. Ian Chubb is chief scientist and a neuroscientist. Brian Boyle is an astrophysicist. Who is the politician, Egleton?

Splitting the array will mean a huge data link will be required to connect to the data centre. Compensation will have to be made for earth tides. A much more limited area of sky will be simultaneously visible from the two sites, which will reduce the time on target at the maximum resolution. If antennas were added to Kerguelen or islands in the mid Indian Ocean, it could fill in some of the ambiguity gap in the spatial frequency domain.