Monday, May 28, 2012

SKA split across 3 countries

A decision has finally been made on which of the competing Australia/ New Zealand and South Africa bids will host the Square Kilometer Array. And it seems to be a clever compromise. The square kilometer array (SKA) will now be the 2 square kilometer array. The part of the planned array that will study the fundamental nature of gravity and make detailed images of individual objects will be built in South Africa. Another part of the array, which will be optimised to study the composition and history of the universe through wide sky surveys, will be built in Western Australia.

To meet the goals of the array it will need to cover the range of radio wave from 70 MHz to over 10,000 MHz and it was never going to be possible for a single type of antenna to cover all of it. The low frequency component, consisting of receivers that do not move and cover the whole sky at once, will be built in Australia to take advantage of the 'radio quietness' of the Murchison site in WA. The MeerKAT array of steerable telescopes in South Africa's Karoo desert, will be extended to cover the high frequency range.

Another piece of the array is the technology that will allow the telescopes a wide field of view that has been compared to a fish-eye lens on a camera. This 'phased array feed' technology is currently being developed in Australia and New Zealand, but is most likely going to be installed on the South African telescopes.

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