Jodrell Bank to host world’s largest radio telescope
April 5, 2011
The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory has been chosen as the headquarters for a $2 billion effort to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
The SKA will be capable of answering some of the most fundamental questions about the Universe, including dark energy, how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. The SKA will be an array of radio antennas with a collection area of a square kilometer, with its core in South Africa or Australia.
Signals from individual antennas will be combined to form one giant telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometer, providing 50 times the sensitivity and 10,000 times the survey speed of the best current-day radio telescopes, with thousands of receptors extending out to distances of 3,000 km from the center of the telescope.
The SKA project is expected to drive technology development in antennas, signal transport, signal processing, and software and computing. Spin off innovations in these areas will benefit other systems that process large volumes of data. The design, construction and operation of the SKA has the potential to impact skills development in science, engineering and in associated industries, not only in the host countries, but in all project partners.
More than 70 institutes in 20 countries, together with industry partners, are participating in the scientific and technical design of the SKA telescope. Construction could start as early as 2016.
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