The Square Kilometre Array
Out of the Darkness, Into the Light
Astronomy allows us to see back in time because the light waves from distant stars and galaxies that reach our current telescopes take a long time to do so and what we see is from a very distant past. SKA (the Square Kilometre Array) will be the most powerful radio telescope we have built, and will see back to when the first galaxies and stars formed, and will make pictures from radio waves rather than seeing light waves. This will allow objects to be discovered that would otherwise remain invisible and impossible to know of.
Expected to collect more data in one week than previous attempts have done in the whole of history it will have the means to survey the sky 100,000 times+ faster than ever before. By the time construction of the array is completed it will include 4,400 dish antennae and flat arrays, 2,200 of which will be situated in the central 5km-wide core area. Thousands of remaining arrays will be grouped together in “stations” spanning 3,000 km (size of a continent) from the core.
The SKA Array will likely be based in South Africa or Australia; a decision will be made in 2012. If Australia was to be chosen SKA would spread right across the mainland, into Tasmania and New Zealand.
International project, also including several European countries, which will revolutionise our understanding in several areas of physics, including general relativity, (how gravity bends spacetime) planet formation, understanding magnetic fields, and cosmology. One of the most important projects will involve measuring the nature of dark energy which it is thought makes up 73% of the universe, because of the vast expanses SKA will be able to survey.
May provide answers to fundamental questions about nature, origin and evolution of universe.
The SKA will be able to detect extremely weak extra-terrestrial signals and may even spot other planets capable of supporting life. Astrobiologists will use SKA to search for amino acids, the building blocks of life by identifying spectral lines at specific frequencies. The SKA array is sensitive enough to be able to detect similar types of radiation to that emitted from our TV broadcasts, radar, and mobile phones. If there proved to be an advanced alien race existing somewhere out in the universe contact could occur by such means. By 2024 the construction will be complete and the fun will begin!