ASKAP and the SKA

Artist's impression of dishes that will make up the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope. Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions/SKA Organisation.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be a revolutionary radio telescope made of thousands of receptors linked together by high bandwidth optical fibre. It will drive progress in fields such as information and communication technology, high performance computing and production manufacturing.

A combination of unprecedented collecting area, versatility and sensitivity will make the SKA the world’s premier imaging and survey telescope over a wide range of radio frequencies, producing the sharpest pictures of the sky of any telescope.

The SKA program is being led by the international SKA Organisation [external link], a not-for-profit company with its headquarters in Manchester, UK.

The SKA project is an international effort to build the world's largest radio telescope, the scale of which represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research & development. The SKA brings together a wealth of the world's finest scientists, engineers and policy makers to bring the project to fruition.

The international effort includes 11 member countries, including Australia, and around 100 organisations across 20 countries participating in the design and development of the telescope.

SKA development timeline

The telescope will be developed over a phase timeline.

In SKA Phase 1 (SKA1), Australia will host the low frequency component of the SKA: SKA1-Low.

The 64-dish MeerKAT SKA precursor in South Africa will be incorporated into the mid-frequency component of SKA1 that will be built in South Africa.

Construction of Phase 1 will take place from 2018 to 2023, providing an operational array of elements capable of carrying out the first science in low and mid frequencies. Phase 2 of the SKA (SKA2) and the high frequency dishes will then follow, providing full sensitivity for frequencies up to 20 GHz.

SKA Location

A map of Australia showing the location of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, home to ASKAP and the future site of Australian SKA infrastructure. Credit: CSIRO.

In 2012 the SKA Organisation announced that the SKA telescope would be co-hosted by Australia and South Africa.

The core of the Australian SKA activity is located at CSIRO's Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO), and surrounding Mid West Radio-Quiet Zone in Western Australia. The MRO is already home to the ASKAP telescope, as well as another of the SKA precursors, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA).

The core of southern Africa's SKA activity is located at the Karoo Radio Observatory (KRO), home to the SKA precuror MeerKAT.

CSIRO acknowledges the Wajarri Yamatji people as the traditional owners of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory site.

ASKAP Leading to the SKA

As one of three SKA precursors, ASKAP is pioneering revolutionary new technologies in areas of electrical engineering, digital systems, computing and signal transport. Key results and techniques generated through the development of ASKAP are contributing to the international SKA design and development effort.

ASKAP's home, the remarkably radio-quiet Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO), in the Mid West region of Western Australia, is where the SKA telescope infrastructure in Australia is to be centred.

The radio-quietness of the Australian SKA site is protected by a range of mechanisms that create the Australian Radio-Quiet Zone (WA).

CSIRO provides advice to industry, the ACMA, and governments on radio-quiet compliance matters and the impact on radio astronomy of proposed activities within the Radio Quiet Zone (RQZ). Further information on the Australian RQZ is available by contacting CSIRO staff.

ASKAP will also trial ‘green energy’ power generation systems that will be relevant to the much larger SKA project.

As part of SKA pre-construction activities, CSIRO is involved in a number of R&D consortia driving the design and validation process of the project. CSIRO is leading the 'Dish' and 'Infrastructure-Australia' consortia, and playing a lead role in the 'Assembly, Integration and Verification' Consortium. Additionally, the CSIRO SKA Centre has been established to coordinate and guide SKA activities within CSIRO.

Further Information

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