The €1.5-billion international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope is to be shared between South Africa and Australia, the SKA Organisation announced in Amsterdam in the Netherlands on Friday afternoon. This was the option supported by the majority of the members of the SKA Organisation. The member countries entitled to vote on the issue were Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.
“Today we are a stage closer to achieving our goal of building the SKA,” said SKA board of directors chairperson Professor John Womersely. “This position was reached after very careful consideration of information gathered from extensive investigations at both candidate sites. I would like to thank all those involved in the site selection process for the tremendous work they have put in to enable us to reach this point.”
The SKA Organisation also revealed that the majority of the dishes for Phase 1 of the SKA will be built in South Africa and combined with this country’s own MeerKAT radio telescope array. Additional SKA dishes will be combined with Australia’s ASKAP radio telescope array. Both MeerKAT and ASKAP were designed to be precursors for the SKA.
The SKA will have dish arrays, mid frequency aperture arrays and low frequency aperture arrays. All the dishes and the mid frequency aperture array antennas for Phase 2 of the SKA will be built in “Southern Africa”, while the low frequency aperture array antennas for both Phases 1 and 2 will be built in Australia.
“This hugely important step for the project allows us to progress the design and prepare for the construction phase of the telescope,” stated SKA Organisation interim director-general Dr Michiel van Haarlem. “The SKA will transform our view of the universe; with it we will see back to the moments after the Big Bang and discover previously unexplored parts of the cosmos.”
The SKA is so called because its total receiving area will amount to about a square kilometre. It will be 50 times more sensitive, and have 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best existing telescopes. Construction of Phase 1 is due to start in 2019. The SKA Organisation, established as a not-for-profit company in December 2011, is headquartered in Manchester, in the UK.