The Square Kilometre Array

Observing the origins of the universe: Soon to be the world’s largest, most sensitive radio telescope

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will investigate how the early Universe developed. It will enable scientists from across the globe to study in unprecedented detail everything from dark matter and dark energy to cosmic magnetic fields and the possible existence of life beyond Earth.

The SKA will comprise of nearly 200 mid-frequency dishes which will be located in South Africa and around 130,000 low-frequency antennas in Western Australia. Its headquarters are at Jodrell Bank, Manchester in the UK which is already home to the historic Lovell Telescope and has a long history of radio astronomy. Signals from the dishes and antennas will be combined and then converted into scientific data. The systems being developed will require network technology that can accommodate more data traffic than the entire internet.

Aimed to be operational in the mid-2020s, it is one of the largest scientific endeavours in history. This international treaty organisation brings together a wealth of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy-makers, with around 100 organisations from around 20 countries participating in the overall design and development of SKA.  

Organisations from 13 countries are currently signatories of the SKA – Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Further countries have expressed their interest in joining the SKA Organisation which will continue to expand over the coming years.

The SKA will provide huge opportunities for technological advances and for a wealth of creation, notably in the field of ‘big data’ and areas in which UK industry and research establishments are poised to benefit. The project’s hugely challenging data needs are already driving developments in next-generation data-intensive supercomputing. To overcome the technical challenges the SKA will face, close, effective collaboration between international partners are key.

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