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Square Kilometre Array To Become World’s Largest Radio Telescope When Completed In 2028

One of the grand scientific projects of the 21st Century begins its construction phase on Monday.

Split across South Africa and Australia, with a headquarters in the UK, the facility will address the biggest questions in astrophysics.

It will perform the most precise tests of Einstein’s theories, and even search for extra-terrestrials.

Delegations from the eight countries leading the project are attending ceremonies in the remote Murchison shire in Western Australia and in the Karoo of South Africa’s Northern Cape.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be the largest radio telescope in the world when completed in 2028.

When the festivities are over, the bulldozers will move in.

The Wajarri Yamaji inaugurate the Murchison site with their ceremonial digging sticks

“This is the moment it becomes real,” said Prof Phil Diamond, director general of the Square Kilometre Array Organisation.

The initial architecture of the telescope will incorporate just under 200 parabolic antennas, or “dishes”, as well as 131,000 dipole antennas, which look a little like Christmas trees.

The aim is to construct an effective collecting area measuring hundreds of thousands of square metres.

This will give the SKA unparalleled sensitivity and resolution as it probes targets on the sky.

The system will operate across a frequency range from roughly 50 megahertz to, ultimately, 25 gigahertz. In wavelength terms, this is in the centimetres to metres range.

This should enable the telescope to detect very faint radio signals coming from cosmic sources billions of light-years from Earth, including those signals emitted in the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

One of the SKA’s great quests will be to trace the full history of hydrogen, the most abundant element in the Universe.

The telescope should be able to detect hydrogen’s presence even before great clouds of it collapsed to form the first stars.

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