Germany joins SKA Organisation

Print edition : January 25, 2013

The board of directors of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation has approved Germany as the 10th member of the organisation to participate in the detailed design of the SKA telescope. The SKA will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope ever built.

“Germany has an excellent track record not only in radio astronomy but also in the management and delivery of science megaprojects and associated engineering. This expertise will be of great benefit to the SKA project,” said John Womersley, chair of the board of the organisation. The German contribution to the organisation amounts to €1 million. As a member, Germany has voting rights and is eligible to appoint two representatives to the board of directors. The existing members are Australia, Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and the U.K. India is an associate member.

In May 2012, the organisation’s members agreed on two sites in desert areas in Australia and South Africa that offer exceptionally radio-quiet environments to allow for the detecting of very faint radio waves from the early universe. Many thousands of SKA receptors will soon be constructed across these two regions. The total collecting area will be about 1 sq km and will have 50 times the sensitivity and 10,000 times the survey speed of the best current-day telescopes. The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about the universe, including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond the earth. Construction of Phase I is scheduled to start in 2016.

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