Artist’s impression of the SKA Headquarters, to be completed in 2017. The SKA Campus is in the foreground, with the iconic Lovell Radio Telescope behind it.
PHOTO BY: SKA Organisation
In 2012, the members of the SKA Organisation announced two sites, in Africa and Australia, for construction of the SKA. In 2015, the United Kingdom was selected to host the SKA Headquarters.
The mid-frequency component of the SKA, “SKA-Mid”, will be constructed in southern Africa. The telescope will be constructed in two phases: “SKA1-Mid” and “SKA2-Mid”, with SKA1 representing approximately 10% of the full SKA.
The SKA1-Mid telescope will be constructed in the Karoo region of South Africa, around 90 km north-west of the town of Carnarvon. This “radio quiet reserve” is already the site of the South African MeerKAT telescope, a 64-dish array currently nearing the end of construction. SKA1-Mid will consist of around 140 dishes, each 15 metres in diameter, combined with the 64 MeerKAT dishes, with the overall array spread over a distance of 150 km. For SKA2-Mid, the array will be drastically expanded to around 2500 dishes. While most of these dishes will be put at the Karoo site, outlying dishes will also be built throughout South Africa, and also in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia. This will provide the spectacular sharpness of vision of a single telescope 3500 km in diameter.
The low-frequency component of the SKA, “SKA-Low”, will be constructed in Australia. As for SKA-Mid, the telescope will be constructed in two phases: the first 10% as “SKA1-Low” and then the full telescope in “SKA2-Low”.
SKA1-Low will be located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO), approximately 315 km northeast of Geraldton, Western Australia. The Murchison Shire in which the MRO is situated is extraordinarily radio-quiet, due to its extremely low population density: around 110 people live within an area of 40,000 square kilometres, around the size one would get combining the metropolitan areas of all of Canada’s provincial capitals. The MRO currently also hosts two SKA pathfinder facilities: the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and the the 36-dish Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP). SKA1-Low will consist of around 130,000 antennas, spread over 80 km. For SKA2-Low, the array will be expanded to around 1 million antennas, distributed over a much larger area.
The headquarters of the SKA will be located in a new purpose-built campus located at the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, England. The building will be set against the backdrop of the famous Lovell Radio Telescope, one of the 20th century’s great science and engineering projects. The headquarters will house over 130 staff and visitors, along with numerous meeting rooms, a council chamber, and 200-seat auditorium. Construction on the SKA headquarters is planned to commence in late 2016, with an opening scheduled for mid-2017.
Panoramas of the two remote, radio-quiet locations selected for construction of SKA1. Upper panel: The Karoo region of South Africa will be the site of SKA1-Mid. Lower panel: The Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in outback Western Australia will be the site of SKA1-Low.
PHOTO BY: CSIRO; SKA South Africa