Start of construction of the largest radio telescope in the world

Artist’s impression of the low-frequency stations forming the completed Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope in Western Australia (Credits: Getty)

The world’s largest radio telescope has begun construction and, once operational, it will allow scientists to peer into the universe further than ever before.

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will include 197 dishes and 131,027 antennas across Australia and South Africa.

Construction kick-off ceremonies have been held in Western Australia and the Northern Cape of South Africa, with the building expected to be completed by 2028.

The massive science apparatus will help scientists understand the origins of the universe as well as test theories like general relativity.

Of course, it could also help us in the search for extraterrestrial life.

“I have been involved with the SKA and its precursor telescopes for the past ten years, and as Chief Scientist of Australian Telescope Operations since July,” explained Cathryn Trott.

“I’m helping to assemble the team of scientists, engineers and technicians who will build and operate the telescope, while undertaking scientific research to map primordial hydrogen in the nascent universe.”

The vast array of antennas will form the largest radio telescope in the world (Credits: Getty)

“Astronomers like me will use telescopes to trace hydrogen through cosmic time and make precise measurements of gravity in extreme environments. Additionally, we hope to discover the existence of complex molecules in planet-forming clouds around distant stars, which could be the first signs of life elsewhere in the universe.

Although the antennas will be in Australia and South Africa, the company’s headquarters will be located in the UK just outside Manchester.

South Africa said it would add 133 dishes to its 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope to create its part of the Square Kilometer Array.

“Today has tremendous significance for all of us…to work toward building a great exploratory instrument that can serve our community and advance a number of scientific frontiers,” said Joseph McMullin, deputy chief executive of the organization. intergovernmental SKA Observatory (SKAO).

Australia and South Africa were chosen as sites due to their remoteness and existing telescope networks. (Credits: Getty)

MeerKAT, which will be integrated with SKA-Mid, delivered images of phenomena such as stellar nurseries and the chaotic region around the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, some 25,000 light-years from Earth.

The dishes are designed to connect with each other to form a giant telescope and with the new additions, which are expected to be operational by 2030, improved image clarity and resolution.

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