Square Kilometre Array

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The Square Kilometre Array, once complete, will be a radio telescope with a planned collecting area of a square kilometre. Its sensitivity is planned in the range of frequencies 0.10–25 GHz, with a goal of 0.06–35 GHz, and its size will make it one hundred times more sensitive than current instruments. It may incorporate multiple independent fields of view, allowing up to 100 radio astronomers to observe at once, or to look at different areas of the sky simultaneously.

An international consortium is working on the design and location, to be decided around 2007. The interferomettic array is expected to comprise many elements spread over an area of several hundred square kilometres, with a compact core of elements containing about half of the collecting area within an area 5 km across, another quarter of the collecting area within 150 km, and the remaining elements spread up to a few thousand kilometres away. The four candidate locations for the array are Argentina, Australia, China, and South Africa (the USA having withdrawn its bid). The final choice of location will depend on cost, scientific and technical resources, sky coverage, and the details of the site (including atmospheric conditions, geography and geology, and freedom from radio frequency interference (RFI)). It will create images of distant radio sources using aperture synthesis.

Once the site is chosen, construction of the SKA is scheduled to begin in 2010, with initial observations in 2015. It is intended to be fully operational by 2020. It is expected to cost US$1bn, and will be comfortably the most sensitive radio instrument ever conceived, being able to detect every active galactic nucleus (AGN) out to a redshift of 6, when the universe was less than 1 billion years old. It will have the sensitivity to detect television broadcasts on extra-solar planets.

On November 2, 2005, 80 of the world's radio astrononomers met in Pune, India, to decide how and where to set up Square Kilometre Array.


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