Ra­dio tele­scope project on track

Midwest Times - - FRONT PAGE - CSIRO's Wil­fredo Pena and Brett His­cock of CSIRO at the con­struc­tion of a pro­to­type low-fre­quency ar­ray at the Murchi­son Ra­dio-as­tron­omy Ob­ser­va­tory. Ge­off Vi­vian Wil­fredo Pena and Brett His­cock of CSIRO erect a ra­dio an­ten­nae at the con­struc­tion of a pro

As read­ers know, a huge ra­dio tele­scope is be­ing in­stalled near Murchi­son Set­tle­ment to de­tect the faint echoes that started when the uni­verse be­gan about 13.7 bil­lion years ago.

The Square Kilo­me­tre Ar­ray or SKA is ex­pected to boost the lo­cal econ­omy and has al­ready brought most of Ger­ald­ton pow­er­ful fi­breto-the-home in­ter­net con­nec­tions.

SKA Aus­tralia’s Can­berrabased project direc­tor David Luchetti dropped in to The Mid­west Times last week to ex­plain how the project was pro­gress­ing.

Mr Luchetti said Aus­tralia would have about a third of the $1 bil­lion SKA to be shared in roughly equal pro­por­tions be­tween three host coun­tries dur­ing Phase 1 of the project.

He said Aus­tralia would host the “SKA Low” sec­tion, “SKA Mid” would be built in South Africa with the ad­min­is­tra­tion cen­tre in Manch­ester UK, and eight other coun­tries had an in­ter­est in the project.

“We have been ne­go­ti­at­ing a treaty called the SKA Ob­ser­va­tory Con­ven­tion,” Mr Luchetti said.

“We hope to sign the con­ven­tion in late Fe­bru­ary and there’s a rat­i­fi­ca­tion pe­riod that needs to take place and we ex­pect that would take roughly a year.

“Once we have five coun­tries con­firm their rat­i­fi­ca­tion, we es­tab­lish the SKA ob­ser­va­tory and it’s up and run­ning.”

Mr Luchetti said con­struc­tion was ex­pected to start in late 2020 or early 2021.

“While we ex­pect el­e­ments to be built in Aus­tralia there will be el­e­ments built over­seas be­cause part­ner coun­tries in con­tribut­ing money are ex­pect­ing to get some kind of in­dus­trial re­turn,” he said.

“The other thing we have been work­ing on here in the Mid West and Western Aus­tralia is in­fra­struc­ture for the site.

“That will be money lit­er­ally ‘on the ground’. It will be roads, fi­bre, power and that will be a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment.”

Mr Luchetti said the “SKA Low”, or low-fre­quency aper­ture ar­ray, would oc­cupy about four-tenths of a square kilo­me­tre as tech­ni­cians added ad­di­tional an­ten­nae to the ex­ist­ing Murchi­son Ra­dio Ob­ser­va­tory.

Dur­ing SKA phase 1, 139,000 an­ten­nae were to be in­stalled at the MRO.

The data they col­lect was to be pro­cessed at the Pawsey Su­per­com­put­ing Cen­tre in Perth.

Pic­tures: Depart­ment of In­dus­try, In­no­va­tion and Sci­ence

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