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The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a global big-science project to build the world’s largest and most capable radio telescope. During its more than 50 year lifetime, the SKA will expand our understanding of the universe and drive technological developments worldwide.

The project is in the pre-construction phase.

A global collaboration

Australia and South Africa will each host SKA telescopes. The SKA Organisation leads the global project. It is headquartered in the United Kingdom and comprises organisations from 13 countries.

The Australian SKA Office coordinates Australia’s involvement in the SKA project through the Australian-New Zealand SKA Coordinating Committee.

Find out more or read the transcript

Hosting the SKA

The Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) will host the low frequency part of the telescope, SKA-Low. South Africa will host the mid frequency component, SKA-Mid. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) operates the MRO. The SKA-Low will be spread across an area spanning 65km and will consist of 130,000 antennas.

The SKA site is:

  • located in remote Western Australia, around 800km north of Perth
  • situated on part of the ancestral lands of the Wajarri Yamaji people
  • ideally positioned in the Australian Radio Quiet Zone WA to protect the SKA from radio interference from electronic devices

Take a virtual tour of the Australia SKA site.

The Wajarri Yamaji have played an important role in enabling Australia to co-host the SKA. The Australian SKA Office and CSIRO are working with the Wajarri Yamaji to negotiate a land use agreement to access the site and realise the SKA Project on Wajarri Yamaji country.

Designing the SKA

Groups from all around the world are working together to design and deliver the telescope infrastructure.

The Global Design Consortia is tasked with designing specific components of the telescope.

SKA precursor telescopes are testing technologies and informing the design of the SKA:

These are powerful telescopes in their own right and are already making discoveries.

SKA science goals

The SKA aims to answer some of the biggest questions in astronomy. Its unparalleled sensitivity, resolution and scanning speed will enable scientific discoveries in key areas:

  • Galaxy evolution, cosmology and dark energy - why is the universe expanding?
  • Gravity in pulsars and black holes - does Einstein's general relativity hold in the most extreme areas of the universe?
  • The cosmic dawn - what did the young universe look like?
  • Life beyond earth - if life is out there, what does it look like?

Read more about SKA science goals on the SKA Organisation website.

Driving new technologies

Radio astronomy has led to the development of new technologies with applications in important fields such as computer science, medical imaging, and advanced manufacturing. Similarly, the SKA is expected to generate spin-off technologies with broad applications.

Astronomers will analyse SKA data to realise the SKA science goals. The unprecedented flow of data from the antennas will require supercomputing power surpassing today’s best technology. The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Western Australia will house the facility.

Read about SKA technology on the SKA Organisation website.

Australian investment in science infrastructure

Government investment in next-generation science infrastructure is ensuring Australia continues to make world-class discoveries and collaborates on major international science projects.

The government announced $294 million for the Square Kilometre Array, as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) in December 2015.

Case studies from Australian companies

Australian companies have contributed to the design of the SKA, construction of precursor telescopes, or engaged in spin-off applications of existing infrastructure.

Read the cases studies:

Read more

Connect with us

Contact us

Email ska@industry.gov.au

See also

Australia’s National Science Statement sets a long-term approach to achieving a strong science system.

    Last updated: 20 August 2019

    Content ID: 46051