Australia ratifies SKA Observatory Convention


Australia has become the fourth country to ratify the Square Kilometre Array Observatory Convention, with the construction phase of the local component of the world’s largest radio telescope scheduled for mid-2021.

The SKA is the world’s largest scientific instrument, and among its infrastructure will be 130,000 antennas — at CSIRO’s Murchison Observatory — and 200 dishes located in South Africa.

There were currently 135 astronomers, 25 engineers and 25 data scientists working on the project and in astronomical research in Western Australia, said the state’s science minister Dave Kelly, and this would grow as the project ramped up.

Federal industry minister Karen Andrews said the project would also provide a benefit to Australian industry through international partnerships to design and build high-tech telescope components, and through developing new ways to process the vast amounts of data collected by the instrument.

“Not only does the project further cement Australia’s reputation for science and research and boost our international standing in radio astronomy, it also has the potential to create 200 construction jobs in regional Western Australia and Perth and a further 100 permanent positions,” she said in a statement.

The SKA is currently in its pre-construction phase. Australia and South Africa host its telescopes, and the project lead — the 13-nation SKA Organisation — is headquartered in London.

Its scientific goals include understanding why the universe is expanding, whether or not the theory of general relativity holds for remote areas of the universe, what the young universe looked like, life beyond earth.

Picture: CSIRO

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