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8th of February 2021
The launch of the SKA Observatory
The SKA Observatory (SKAO) was launched last week following the first meeting of the Observatory’s Council. The SKAO is the world’s second intergovernmental organisation to be dedicated to astronomy. The Council is composed of representatives from the Observatory’s Member States -- currently Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and the United Kingdom -- as well as Observer countries aspiring to join SKAO. Among these are countries that took part in the design phase of the SKA such as Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, and whose future accession to SKAO is expected in the near future, once their national processes have been completed. Representatives of national bodies in Japan and South Korea complement the select list of Observers in the SKAO Council.

At its first meeting, the SKAO Council approved policies and procedures that have been prepared in recent months – covering governance, funding, programmatic and HR matters, among others. These approvals are required to transfer staff and assets from the SKA Organisation to the Observatory and allow the latter to become a functioning entity. SKAO will begin recruitment in Australia and South Africa in the next few months, working alongside local partners CSIRO and SARAO to supervise construction, which is expected to last eight years, with early science opportunities starting in the mid 2020s.

The image above is a night-time composite of the SKA combining all elements in South Africa and Australia. together with the MWA GLEAM view toward the centre of the Milky Way, in radio colour. (Image credit: SKAO, ICRAR, SARAO, & Natasha Hurley-Walker (Curtin/ICRAR) and the GLEAM Team.)

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