Australia and New Zealand—the home of next-generation radio astronomy?

Artist's impression of the Australian SKA Pathfinder currently being built in outback Western Australia. Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions/CSIRO
Artist’s impression of the Australian SKA Pathfinder currently being built in outback Western Australia. Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions/CSIRO

Imagine a telescope so revolutionary that in one week it will gather more information than that contained in all the words spoken in human history.

The Square Kilometre Array, or SKA, will be the world’s most powerful radio telescope and will dramatically increase mankind’s understanding of the universe.

The infrastructure enabling this expansion in knowledge may be placed in Australia and New Zealand, whose proposal to host the SKA has been shortlisted by the international science community. A final decision is expected in 2012.

The candidate core site is located in the Mid West region of Western Australia, at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO). The original inhabitants have practiced astronomy for tens of thousands of years as part of the world’s oldest continuous culture. The SKA continues this ancient tradition.

The MRO provides excellent observing conditions. It is one of the most radio-quiet regions in the world and promises to be to radio astronomy what Chile and Hawaii are to optical astronomy.

Complementing this core will be a series of array stations spiralling across the sparsely populated interior of Australia and out to New Zealand, providing a baseline of over 5,000 kilometres.

This robust configuration will allow the SKA to meet the needs of present astronomers, and will be flexible enough to provide for the ambitions of the scientists of future generations.

Further information: Australia and New Zealand SKA Project, Tel: +61 (2) 6213 6000, www.ska.gov.au

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