Composite image of the SKA combining all elements in South Africa (left) and Australia (right). This image blends photos of real hardware already on the ground on both sites with artist’s impressions of the future SKA antennas. Image credit: SKA Organisation.
Welcome to SKA canada
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international collaboration to build the world’s largest radio telescope. The SKA aims to conduct groundbreaking science that will transform our understanding of the Universe and of the laws of fundamental physics. The SKA will monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and map it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.
The SKA will not be a single telescope but two collections of telescopes called arrays, working together over long distances – tens to hundreds of kilometres and eventually thousands of kilometres. In the next decade, hundreds of dish-shaped radio telescopes will be connected and thousands of low-frequency antennas will be combined into a facility called SKA1, with expansions planned in the future.
The SKA is a truly global facility: the project is headquartered in the United Kingdom, the dish array will be in South Africa, the antenna array will be in Australia, and SKA data centres will be spread around the world. The SKA is committed to the sustainable development of the project across the globe, with a particular focus on building partnerships with Indigenous and local communities at the remote sites where the dishes and antennas will be located.
The design phase of the SKA included contributions over a dozen countries by more than 500 of the world’s finest scientists and engineers drawn from over 100 companies and research institutions in more than a dozen countries. That design is now complete, and the project will begin construction in 2021 with the first scientific results expected later this decade.
Canadian scientists, engineers and industry have been engaged in SKA design since its earliest stages over 20 years ago, and the SKA is the top unfunded priority for ground-based astronomy in the 2020-2030 Long Range Plan for astronomy and astrophysics. Scientifically, Canadians are world leaders in many of the areas in which the SKA will revolutionize our understanding of the universe. Technologically, Canada led the design of the digital signal processors at the heart of the telescope arrays. Industrially, these key technologies have applications across multiple economic sectors from which Canadian companies stand to benefit, with aggregate market values in the tens of billions of dollars.
With construction set to begin next year, it’s time for Canada to commit to the construction and operations phases of the SKA, one of the largest scientific endeavours in history.
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