The SKA Organisation Headquarters, at Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester, UK, and the Lovell Telescope in the background. Credit: Juande Santander-Vela.
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 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. Future expansions of the SKA may install outlying dishes throughout South Africa, and also in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia.
The low-frequency component of the SKA, “SKA-Low”, will be constructed in Australia.
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.
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 eventually house over 150 staff and visitors from around the world, along with numerous meeting rooms, a council chamber, and 200-seat auditorium. It was inaugurated in July 2019 in the presence of dignitaries from across the SKA member countries. The headquarters building will be home to the SKA Observatory when it comes into being in 2020.
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