Construction of world’s largest radio telescope to begin from July

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Shovel ready: artist’s impression of the SKA dish arrays (left) and antenna arrays (right) (Courtesy: SKA Organisation)
Shovel ready: artist’s impression of the SKA dish arrays (left) and antenna arrays (right) (Courtesy: SKA Organisation)

New Delhi : A go ahead has been given to the world's biggest radio telescope network project. Last week the council of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) gave the green light to construct the €2bn Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in Australia and southern Africa.

The project is aimed to complete by 2028. The telescope will have a life span of up to 50 years.

As its name suggests, the SKA is a facility that intends to have a total collecting area of 1 km2, achieved by spreading out thousands of individual dishes in southern Africa as well as a million wire antennas in Australia.

SKA will be designed in a way to help astronomers with unprecedented views of the first stars in the universe and observations of gravitational waves via the radio emissions from pulsars, among other things.

More than 500 engineers from 100 institutions worldwide have been involved with the design of the SKA telescopes with over 1000 scientists from 40 countries working on the science case of the project. The final SKA design to be built — similar to that proposed for SKA 1 — includes 197 radio dishes in South Africa, including 64 dishes belonging to the existing MeerKAT array,  as well as 131 072 individual antennas in Australia. The cost of constructing the two telescope arrays and operations for the coming decade will be about €2bn – €1.3bn to build the instrument and €700m for operations.

According to a news report, UK will be hosting the headquarters of the observatory and will be spending £270m.

Philip Diamond, director-general of SKAO, says he is “ecstatic” by the latest development. “This moment has been 30 years in the making,” he says. “Today, humankind is taking another giant leap by committing to build what will be the largest science facility of its kind on the planet; not just one but the two largest and most complex radio telescope networks, designed to unlock some of the most fascinating secrets of our universe.”