Astrophysics, construction of Ska underway

After years of planning and design work, the Ska Observatory (Skao) has finally given the green light to start construction of the antennas in Australia and South Africa. Ska-Low and Ska-Mid will be the two largest and most complex radio telescope networks ever built. Today’s announcement marks a new chapter in the history of the Ska project, after the Observatory was officially born as an intergovernmental organization on January 15, 2021 and the construction start date is formally set for July 1, 2021, while the full operation of the two radio telescopes is expected by 2030. “I am ecstatic. This moment has taken 30 years of work,” enthuses Skao CEO Philip Diamond. “Today humanity – he stresses – is taking another giant step by committing to building what will be the largest scientific facility on the planet. Not just one, but the two largest and most complex radio telescope networks, designed to reveal some of the secrets. most fascinating of our Universe “. The Council decision follows the publication of two key documents for the project, the ‘Construction Proposal’ and the ‘Ska Observatory Establishment and Delivery Plan’, which are the culmination of 7 years of work by over 500 experts from 20 countries , who developed and tested the technologies needed to build and operate the two radio telescopes. Eleven international consortia, representing more than 100 institutions, including research laboratories, universities and companies from around the world, have designed the antennas, networks, supercomputers, software and infrastructures underlying the SKA project. “I would like to thank those who have contributed to making this possible in the last decades, from the beginning of the project until today, and especially all the teams who have worked so hard and have moved forward within deadlines despite the pandemic and under the circumstances. very difficult “adds Diamond. “I would also like to thank the Member States for the trust they place in us by investing in large-scale and long-term research infrastructures at a time when public finances are under great pressure,” he continues. The Ska project has seen impressive progress in recent months: after the completion of the ratification process of the Skao Treaty by all 7 signatories – Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and the United Kingdom – France and Spain are ever closer to joining the Observatory. A cooperation agreement was also recently signed with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne on behalf of Switzerland, while waiting for the Swiss government to officially join the Skao. Other countries, including those that have also taken part in the design phase of SKA telescopes (Canada, Germany, India and Sweden) and others that have joined the Council more recently (Japan and South Korea), complete the shortlist of Observers.

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