Researchers and international astronomy groups are celebrating after hearing that Australia will share in hosting the world’s largest telescope – the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The decision was made on the 25th of May by members in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Australia will share the project with South Africa who has also spent considerable time over the last few years building precursor telescopes.
“The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes. Thousands of receptors will extend to distances of 3 000 km from the centre of the telescope, the SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our 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 Earth” Says the SKA website on the 25th of May.
The site selected to host the SKA is in the Murchison district of Western Australia roughly 700kms from Perth on Boolardy Station. This pastoral lease neighbours Wooleen Station to the east.
Factors taken into account during the site selection process included levels of radio frequency interference, the long term sustainability of a radio quiet zone, the physical characteristics of the site, long distance data network connectivity, the operating and infrastructure costs as well as the political and working environment.
The agreement was reached by the Members of the SKA Organisation who did not bid to host the SKA (Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). The Office of the SKA Organisation will now lead a detailed definition period to clarify the implementation.
For those hoping to experience the radio quietness of the Murchison region for themselves Wooleen Station welcomes visitors from the 1st of April till the 31st of October each year and offers activities and accommodation. Clear night skies, free of noise and interference all make for a peaceful holiday into the Australian outback. Find out for yourself why this location was chosen as the best in the world to host the Square Kilometre Array!