Australian-raised researcher is new head of international mega-telescope project

1 January 2003

Dwingeloo, The Netherlands --- The world's largest radio telescope project has appointed its first international leader. On January 1, Professor Richard Schilizzi, formerly Director of the Joint Institute for Very Long Baseline Interferometry in Europe (JIVE), became the first Director of the International Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Project.

The SKA project is a visionary astronomical collaboration between institutions from eleven countries, an ambitious effort to build the world's next-generation radio telescope. The instrument will have one million square meters of collecting area, making it 100 times more sensitive than today's leading telescopes. This sensitivity will let astronomers achieve a long-sought goal: to peer into the most distant reaches of the universe and probe what existed before the stars were born.

Says Schilizzi, "I'm delighted to play a role in this important project. The SKA will see the 'cosmic web' of hydrogen gas - the fabric of the universe that that will later turn into galaxies and stars - no other telescope can do that. The SKA will show us the very first steps in the formation of galaxies - one of the key questions of astronomy. I look forward to helping guide the development of this immensely powerful instrument."

Schilizzi was selected, and his appointment funded, by the International SKA Steering Committee (ISSC). The position lasts a minimum of two years and will be based at the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy (ASTRON) in Dwingeloo, The Netherlands.

Schilizzi led the building of the European VLBI Network and the establishment of the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe as the central data processing and support institute for the European VLBI Network. This background in collaborative international projects will be critical as the SKA project partners moves towards consensus on the SKA's design.

Consortia in Australia, Canada, China, India, Europe, and the U.S.A. are designing and testing innovative prototypes that will vie for final design selection in 2007. The SKA is a project that was "born international" and thrives on the spirit of international collaboration. Knowledge gained from each preliminary design study will contribute to the success of the final instrument. Construction is projected to begin in 2010.

Says Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute, USA, who chairs the ISSC, "This is an exciting time for the SKA Project. Right now, the suite of international design concepts ranges from giant Arecibo-like radio telescopes to large arrays of smaller units, all of them incorporating cutting-edge technology. Richard is the perfect person to guide the evaluation process and develop a detailed plan for developing the final facility design."

Schilizzi was educated in Australia, obtaining his Ph.D. in Radio Astronomy from the University of Sydney in 1973. After a post-doctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology working on VLBI, he joined the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy in 1976 with responsibility for developing VLBI in The Netherlands. In 1993 he was appointed foundation Director of JIVE. From 1991 to 2001, he was J. H. Oort Foundation Adjunct Professor at Leiden University, The Netherlands, and in 2002 he was appointed Professor in Radio Astronomy at Leiden.


Prof. Ron Ekers
Director, CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility, and former Chair of the International Square Kilometer Array Steering Committee
+61-9372-4301 (office) +61-419-146-313 (mobile)

The Netherlands:
Prof. Richard Schilizzi
Director, International Square Kilometer Array Project
Tel: +31-528-269996 (home) +31-521-595100 (office, from 6 January)

Dr Jill Tarter
Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI, SETI Institute, and Chair, International Square Kilometer Array Steering Committee
+1-650-961-6633 (main)

Prof. Russ Taylor, Executive Secretary, International Square Kilometer Array Steering Committee
University of Calgary
+1 403-220-5385 (office)


More information about the SKA including the design concepts from the international members of the consortium can be found on-line at:

Schilizzi's photo can be downloaded from the web at: