Government of Western Australia Official Site


WA to co-host Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project


John Day
Minister for Planning; Culture and the Arts; Science and Innovation

The announcement that Australia and South Africa would share joint custody of the world’s largest radio telescope project, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, will put Western Australia on the map in terms of astronomy said Peter Quinn, director of Perth-based International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research. After several years of evaluation, the decision means Australia and New Zealand will operate low frequency antennas as part of the project while South Africa will operate mid-frequency antennas.

Australia’s core site will be about 100km west of Meekathara, 750km northeast of Perth. The Australian government science agency CSIRO said construction of the SKA will start in 2016, with an array of low frequency antennae. The first phase is due to begin streaming data in 2020.

The SKA will explore exploding stars, black holes, dark energy and traces of the universe’s origin some 14 billion years ago. It could answer some of the biggest questions, including how our universe formed, whether Albert Einstein’s predictions about gravity were right, and if there is life beyond Earth.

Professor Quinn said by simply having the SKA project located in the state, WA’s reputation in the science world would benefit. This global scientific project will bring many international scientists to WA. The construction phase is expected to employ about 100 people, and from 2020 an operations facility in Perth will require about 100 people.

Ian Chubb, the Australian government’s chief scientist said, “It is exciting that Australia will play such a prominent role in what is one of the largest international cooperations in science.” The SKA project involves more than 70 institutions in 20 countries

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Photo: One of CSIRO’s new ASKAP (Australian SKA Pathfinder) antennas at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia. Credit: WA Department of Commerce