Square Kilometre Array
Participation in the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) program [external link] is a strategic priority for CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science. Our experience operating world-class radio telescopes, as well as our strengths in technology development and radio astronomy research, have already enabled us to make significant contributions towards planning for the SKA. In addition, the CSIRO-run Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory has been selected as the central site for major components of SKA telescope infrastructure in Australia; SKA telescope infrastructure will also be deployed in southern Africa.
What is the SKA?
A €1.5 billion project, the SKA radio telescope will consist of thousands of antennas linked together by high bandwidth optical fibre.
It will be 50 times as sensitive as the best current-day radio telescopes and will have a survey speed 10,000 times faster than its nearest current-day rival—enabling it to carry out research more quickly than ever before. It aims to address fundamental questions about the evolution of the Universe including the formation of black holes, the origins of the first stars and the generation of magnetic fields in space.
A €1.5 billion project, 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 telescope will be implemented across two main sites: the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) and surrounding Mid West Radio-Quiet Zone in Western Australia, and southern Africa. Construction of the SKA Phase 1 is expected to start in 2016 and preliminary science operations are to take place by 2020.
CSIRO involvement in the SKA
CSIRO will work with the Australian and New Zealand governments, and the SKA Organisation, to determine its future role in the SKA in more detail.
CSIRO's current involvement in the SKA includes:
- Establishment and ongoing management of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO), in the Mid West region of Western Australia, where the SKA telescope infrastructure in Australia is to be centred
- Development, construction and operation of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope
- Participation in the Murchison Widefield Array project [external link], which is a pathfinder project for the SKA
- Development of innovative phased array feeds or 'radio cameras' that allow telescopes to scan the sky far more quickly than with traditional single pixel receivers
- Establishment of infrastructure to support the MRO including the MRO Support Facility in Geraldton and SKA-ready high-speed optic-fibre connectivity between the MRO and Perth
- Participation in the planning for the SKA through the SKA Organisation's Project Execution Plan [external link] and the earlier European Union Preparatory Phase Studies for the SKA (PrepSKA) program [external link]
- Participation in the Australia – New Zealand SKA Coordination Committee [external link], the advisory body to Ministers on SKA planning in Australia and New Zealand, and
- Participation in the Australasian SKA Industry Consortium [external link].