The Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) is a revolutionary international radio telescope project designed to explore the universe in unprecedented detail. Read further to learn more.
India will be providing Rs 1,250 crore to the multinational Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project, whose telescope arrays or groups of telescopes will be built in Australia and South Africa.
The SKA will be built in two phases in both places, with the first phase of construction of SKA1 having begun in December 2022. It is expected to begin operations by 2029.
SKA will be a group of radio telescopes operating out of South Africa and Australia in two different ranges of radio frequency. Its headquarters are at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK.
Square Kilometre Array Observatory Project
The Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) was founded in 2019 and has 16 consortium members: Australia, South Africa, Canada, China, India, Japan, South Korea, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Italy.
The SKA Observatory aims to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, combining cutting-edge technology with a vast collecting area to address a wide range of scientific questions in astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology.
- The SKA is a collaborative effort involving multiple countries and organizations. It represents one of the most significant international science and engineering projects of the 21st century.
- Member countries and organizations contribute both financially and with their scientific and technical expertise to realize the project.
The SKA Observatory will be distributed across two sites: one in South Africa and the other in Australia.
- Each site will host different components of the telescope, taking advantage of their unique geographical and environmental characteristics.
- The South African array will scan for mid-frequency signals, between 350 MHz and 15.4 GHz, while the Australian telescope will work in the low-frequency range of 50-350 MHz.
- To improve the accuracy of the triangulation of data and its resolution, the project will include additional dishes in the future in neighboring African countries: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia.
The construction of the SKA is planned to be carried out in phases. The first phase, SKA1, will focus on building the core elements of the telescope. Subsequent phases will expand the capabilities and geographical reach of the observatory.
- The SKAO project emphasizes an inclusive approach to involve a wide range of countries and scientists. It provides opportunities for training, education, and participation in the project, fostering a collaborative and diverse scientific community.
- The SKA Observatory is committed to open access and data sharing. The immense datasets generated by the telescope will be made available to the global scientific community, promoting transparency and collaboration.
Scale and Sensitivity: The SKA’s collecting area will be one square kilometer, providing unprecedented sensitivity and resolution. This vast collecting area is essential for detecting faint astronomical signals and conducting surveys of the sky.
Frequency Range: The SKA will operate over a broad frequency range, covering the radio wave spectrum from 70 MHz to 25 GHz. This wide frequency coverage will enable scientists to explore various astrophysical phenomena.
Click here for the history of the SKA Project
The SKA Observatory aims to address fundamental questions in astrophysics, cosmology, and astrobiology. These include the nature of dark matter and dark energy, the origins of cosmic magnetism, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).
- Understand the birth of the Universe.
- Detect Gravitational Waves.
- A gravitational wave is an invisible ripple in space.
- Understand the evolution of Galaxies, Dark matter and
- Cosmic Magnetism.
The SKA project drives technological innovation in several areas, including high-performance computing, signal processing, and data management. The sheer volume of data generated by the telescope requires advanced computational capabilities and storage solutions.
India and SKAO
India’s involvement in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) project holds significant scientific, technological, and strategic importance. As one of the member countries contributing to the development and construction of the SKAO, India stands to benefit in various ways.
- India joined SKAO in 2012 as an Associate Member and has actively participated in the pre-construction phase of the SKA telescopes.
- In 2022, the National Centre for Radio Astronomy, Pune, and SKAO signed a cooperation agreement.
- The Giant Metre wave Radio Telescope (GMRT) is playing the role in SKAO.
India can play a role in shaping the scientific goals and priorities of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory, contributing to research areas such as cosmology, astrophysics, and the study of celestial objects.
- Involvement in the SKAO exposes Indian engineers and technologists to the forefront of radio astronomy technology.
- The project’s requirements drive advancements in high-performance computing, signal processing, and data management, offering opportunities for India to develop and showcase its technological capabilities.
- Collaborating on an international project like the SKAO strengthens India’s ties with other participating countries and organizations.
- The SKAO project can serve as an inspiration for students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines in India.
- Being a key player in projects like the SKAO enhances India’s standing in the global scientific and technological arena.
- Participation in the SKAO could lead to economic opportunities for Indian industries involved in the production and supply of specialized equipment and components required for the construction and maintenance of the radio telescope.
India’s participation in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory project goes beyond scientific exploration, offering opportunities for technological advancement, global collaboration, skill development, and the enhancement of India’s standing in the international scientific community.
The long-term impact extends to education, research, and the potential for future contributions to groundbreaking discoveries in the field of radio astronomy.
-Article by Swathi Satish