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In Australia, they began to build the world's largest radio telescope - it will occupy 400 thousand square meters.

Published: 2022-12-05

After thirty years of development, construction has begun in Australia on the world's largest observatory, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope, which will use more than 100,000 antennas to observe space. It is expected that it will help scientists figure out how and when the first stars and galaxies formed, and also help to study dark energy, the reasons for the expansion of the Universe and discover other secrets of the cosmos. And potentially will contribute to the search for alien life.

Initially, SKA will use two arrays - one of them, SKA-Low of 131,072 antennas, will be located in Western Australia. The array will be sensitive to low-frequency radio signals (50-350 MHz), it will be 8 times more sensitive than comparable modern radio telescopes and 135 times faster than them will be engaged in mapping the starry sky. SKA-Low antennas will be assembled into 512 groups, 256 antennas each. From the central compact core 1 km across, further stations will be located along three spiral arms, diverging from the center over a huge area - the maximum distance between the two farthest stations will be 65 km. The area of the system was 400 thousand m2.

The second array of 197 regular "saucers" - SKA-Mid, will be built in South Africa. The existing MeerKAT radio telescope will become part of the SKA-Mid array, its 13.5 m dishes will be joined by larger SKA dishes with a diameter of 15 m, combined into one system. They will be able to receive signals with a frequency of 350 MHz to 15.4 GHz, and in the future up to 24 GHz. From a central core with a diameter of about 1 km, the antennas will be arranged in three spiral arms covering a huge distance - the two farthest antennas in SKA-Mid will be 150 km apart from each other.

The observatory will define the next 50 years of terrestrial radio astronomy by tracking the birth and death of galaxies, enabling scientists to search for new types of gravitational waves and expanding the boundaries of the known universe, according to SKA-Low director Dr. Sarah Pearce. According to Pierce, the SKA would be sensitive enough to detect the hypothetical radar of a typical airport on a planet orbiting a star tens of light-years from Earth, so it could help answer one of the most important questions - is humanity alone in the universe?

According to many scientists, the SKA has the potential to "change the rules of the game" in astronomy and its appearance will be a milestone in research. According to available data, more than 1000 people worked on the development for decades. According to the researchers, due to the high sensitivity of the radio telescope, it will allow you to “peer” into deep antiquity and study events literally from the beginning of our Universe, when its first stars were formed, the radiation from which has already reached the Earth.

As Price said, again talking about the resolution of the telescope, it is able to “recognize a mobile phone in the pocket of an astronaut on Mars, who is 225 million kilometers away.” Moreover, if nearby stars have technologically advanced civilizations close to us, SKA will help to recognize "leaks" of radio emission from their radio and telecommunications networks. It is the first telescope sensitive enough to do this and will combine data collected from different continents.

The telescope is designed to perform a lot of tasks, and, as was the case with the Hubble, it will make it possible to make discoveries that are inaccessible to modern science in principle.

In Australia, the SKA Organization collaborates with the National Scientific and Applied Research Organization (CSIRO) to build and operate telescopes.