Caymans Post

A world within. A state apart.
Sunday, Feb 05, 2023

Construction begins on world's biggest telescope

Construction begins on world's biggest telescope

One of the grand scientific projects of the 21st Century begins its construction phase on Monday. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will be the largest radio telescope in the world when completed in 2028.
Split across South Africa and Australia, with a headquarters in the UK, the facility will address the biggest questions in astrophysics.

It will perform the most precise tests of Einstein's theories and even search for extra-terrestrials.

Delegations from the eight countries leading the project are attending ceremonies in the remote Murchison shire in Western Australia and in the Karoo of South Africa's Northern Cape.

When the festivities are over, the bulldozers will move in.

"This is the moment it becomes real," said Prof Phil Diamond, director general of the Square Kilometre Array Organisation.

"It's been a 30-year journey. The first 10 years were about developing concepts and ideas. The second 10 was spent doing the technology development. And then the last decade was about detailed design, securing the sites, getting governments to agree to set up a treaty organisation (SKAO) and provide the funds to start," he told BBC News.

The initial architecture of the telescope will incorporate just under 200 parabolic antennas, or "dishes", as well as 131,000 dipole antennas, which look a little like Christmas trees.

The aim is to construct an effective collecting area measuring hundreds of thousands of square metres.

This will give the SKA unparalleled sensitivity and resolution as it probes targets on the sky.

The system will operate across a frequency range from roughly 50 megahertz to, ultimately, 25 gigahertz. In wavelength terms, this is in the centimetres to metres range.

This should enable the telescope to detect very faint radio signals coming from cosmic sources billions of light-years from Earth, including those signals emitted in the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

One of the SKA's great quests will be to trace the full history of hydrogen, the most abundant element in the Universe.

The telescope should be able to detect hydrogen's presence even before great clouds of it collapsed to form the first stars.

"The SKA is going to contribute to so many areas of astronomy," said Dr Shari Breen, the observatory's head of science operations.

"One would be these 'fast radio bursts' that have been detected. These things output the equivalent of an entire year's worth of energy from our Sun in just a fraction of a second. And we have no idea what they are. How is that possible? Hopefully the SKA will have an answer."

The telescope is being built in areas already used for radio astronomy on a smaller scale.

To expand these sites, however, has required various land agreements, with farmers in the Karoo; and with the Wajarri Yamaji, the Aboriginal title holders in the Murchison.

The Wajarri community have organised Monday's celebration to inaugurate the SKA.

Various procurement contracts will be announced around the ceremonies.

These will take the total financial outlay to date to just under €500m (£430m) - out of an expected final construction budget of €2bn.

The first major milestone should come in 2024, when four dishes in Australia and six antenna stations in South Africa are made to work seamlessly together as a basic telescope. This proof-of-principle moment will then trigger the array's full roll-out.

By 2028, the SKA will have an effective collecting area of just under 500,000 square metres. But the set-up is such that it can continue growing, perhaps up to the much desired one million square metres, or one square kilometre.

One way this could happen is if more and more countries join the organisation and provide the necessary funds.

The current members are: South Africa, Australia, the UK, China, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland. These countries have ratified the treaty.

France, Spain, and most recently Germany, have got themselves on to the accession path.

Canada, India, Sweden, South Korea and Japan have indicated their intention to join at some point.

"And we're actually in the process of talking to other countries as well, to see what interest they might have in joining the observatory," said Prof Diamond.
Newsletter

Related Articles

Caymans Post
Close
0:00
0:00
Turkish photographer Ugur Gallenkus portrays two different worlds within a single image. Brilliant work
Tennessee Bill Would Imprison People for 3 Years If They 'Lie' About Rape to Get an Abortion.
Charlie Munger, calls for a ban on cryptocurrencies in the US, following China's lead
EU found a way to use frozen Russian funds
First generation unopened iPhone set to fetch more than $50,000 at auction.
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
What is ChatGPT?
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
Opinion | Israel’s Supreme Court Claims a Veto on Democracy
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Who’s Threatening Israeli Democracy?
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
China's first population drop in six decades
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
China's foreign ministry branch in Hong Kong urges British gov't to stop the biased and double standards Hong Kong report
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
Lisa Marie Presley, singer and daughter of Elvis, dies aged 54
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
UK chaos: Hong Kong emigrants duped by false prospectus
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo
Will Canada ever become a real democracy?
Hong Kong property brokerages slash payrolls in choppy market
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Effect of EU sanctions on Moscow is ‘less than zero’ – Belgian MEP
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
FTX assets worth $3.5bn held by Bahamas securities regulator
A Republican congressman-elect is under investigation in New York after he admitted he lied about his education and work experience.
Brazilian football legend Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has died at the age of 82.
Hong Kong to scrap almost all its Covid rules
EU calls screening of travellers from China unjustified
US imposes Covid testing for visitors from China
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Addresses Joint Session of Congress - FULL SPEECH
If a country is denied the right to independence by another, it is not in a union. It is in a dictatorship.
Where is Rishi? Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's excuses about the UK's economic challenges just don't make sense
Former FTX CEO Bankman-Fried finally arrested in Bahamas after U.S. files charges
Corruption works: House Financial Services Chair Waters doesn't plan to subpoena her donor, Sam Bankman-Fried, to testify at hearing on FTX collapse
Ronaldo's new contract...
×