UWA joins largest global science facility

Australia’s leading astronomers, including those from The University of Western Australia, will be at the forefront of astronomical discoveries following a final endorsement to build and operate one of the largest science facilities on the planet.

The global Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, which UWA is involved in through the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), will see the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescopes built.

The telescopes will be 50 times more sensitive and much faster at surveying galaxies than any current radio telescope.

Australia is the fourth country to ratify the SKA Observatory Convention.

The ratification is Australia’s final step to becoming a founding member of the SKA Observatory – the intergovernmental organisation that will establish the global facility.

In 2012, Australia was selected as the host country for the low frequency part of the SKA and its ratification is the culmination of many years of work.

Under the Convention, WA will host 130,000 antennas and South Africa 200 dishes – together making a telescope that will allow astronomers to observe the first stars and galaxies to exist in the universe and view the cosmos in more detail than ever before.

Hosted at CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, the antennas will be spread over 65 kilometres in outback Western Australia.

Through ICRAR—a joint venture between UWA and Curtin University — more than 200 staff and students from all over the world are now living and working in WA because of the SKA project.

The volume of data generated by the telescopes will be immense, requiring new technology and supercomputing facilities with incredible processing capacity and speed.

The project is expected to move into the construction phase in mid-2021.

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