The Square Kilometer Array is the name of the word’s largest radio telescope and is planned to be built between 2018-2030 in the Indian Ocean Region. Once operational it would be used to validate several hypotheses about Einstein’s relativity, test theories on the epoch of re-ionization of the universe, observe cosmic magnetism and expand the search for extraterrestrial life.
The SKA headquarters will be located at the historic Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, England. Initially the organization surveyed sites in Argentina, China, Chile and South Africa for setting up radio dishes. After evaluating the sites it was decided that the radio antennas would be set up in South Africa and Australia. South Africa has a unique law that it promulgated in 2007 called the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act which forbids commercial activities that could hamper the functioning of scientific instruments used in Astronomy. The security provided by this Act helped clinch the project for South Africa.
- The Square Kilometer Array telescope is a global project run by a consortium of 12 nations. The member nations are Canada, China, Australia, India, Germany, New Zealand, Italy, Malta, South Africa, UK, Sweden and the Netherlands.
- Spain, Portugal, France, Japan and the United States are some of the countries that are keen to collaborate on this project and could join the project in the near future.
- The SKA would be spread across two continents and will have a collecting area of 1 million sq meters once fully operational.
- Once fully constructed the SKA would be ten times more sensitive than any currently existing radio telescope. It would also be a hundred times faster than present day radio telescopes in mapping the sky.
- Phase 1 of the construction period will begin in 2018 and last till 2023. Phase 2 would last from 2023 to 2030. Construction for Phase 1 is expected to cost Euro 650 million (Rs 4800 Crore approximately). Phase 2 is expected to cost a whopping 10 times the construction cost of phase 1 but researchers are hopeful that innovations in tech and science coupled with economies of scale would lower the cost substantially by 2023 when construction finally begins.
- The central computer which will crunch the data collected by the Square Kilometer Array(SKA) would be powered by a super-computer having the processing power of 100 million home computers.
- The dishes of the SKA telescope will collect and generate data which is 10x the global internet bandwidth.
- The SKA is so sensitive it can detect the radar of an airport on a planet at-least 50 light years. As the aperture of the telescope increases, it is able to detect more sensitive information.
- The SKA once fully operational would most likely lead to new discoveries and fundamentally alter our understanding of the cosmos.
- Considering the scale and the scope of the project, it would be entirely reasonable to estimate that some of the researchers working on the Square Kilometer Array would go on to win Noble Prizes in Physics.
- The designers of the SKA expect it to have a lifetime of five decades. This takes into account upgrades that could be carried out over the years.
Take a look at the info-graphic below that provides some quick bytes about the SKA.