Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

News

In Australia and South Africa, construction has started on the biggest radio observatory in Earth’s history

Construction of the world’s biggest radio astronomy facility, the SKA Observatory, begins today. The observatory is a global project 30 years in the making.

With two huge two telescopes, one in Australia and the other in South Africa, the project will see further into the history of the Universe than ever before.

Astronomers like me will use the telescopes to trace hydrogen over cosmic time and make precise measurements of gravity in extreme environments. What’s more, we hope to uncover the existence of complex molecules in planet-forming clouds around distant stars, which could be the early signs of life elsewhere in the Universe.

I have been involved in the SKA and its precursor telescopes for the past ten years, and as the chief operations scientist of the Australian telescope since July. I am helping to build the team of scientists, engineers and technicians who will construct and operate the telescope, along with undertaking science to map primordial hydrogen in the infant universe.

The SKA Observatory is an intergovernmental organization with dozens of countries involved. The observatory is much more than the two physical telescopes, with headquarters in the UK and collaborators around the world harnessing advanced computers and software to tailor the telescope signals to the precise science being undertaken.

The telescope in South Africa (called SKA-Mid) will use 197 radio dishes to observe middle-frequency radio waves from 350 MHz to more than 15 GHz. It will study the extreme environments of neutron stars, organic molecules around newly forming planets, and the structure of the Universe on the largest scales.

The Australian telescope (SKA-Low), in Western Australia, will observe lower frequencies with 512 stations of radio antennas spread out over a 74-kilometre span of outback.

The site is located within Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory. This name, which means “sharing sky and stars”, was given to the observatory by the Wajarri Yamaji, the traditional owners and native title holders of the observatory site.

After decades of planning, developing precursor telescopes and testing, today we are holding a ceremony to mark the start of on-site construction. We expect both telescopes will be fully operational late this decade.

Each of the 512 stations of SKA-Low is made up of 256 wide-band dipole antennas, spread over a diameter of 35 meters. The signals from these Christmas-tree-shaped antennas in each station are electronically combined to point to different parts of the sky, forming a single view.

These antennas are designed to tune in to low radio frequencies of 50 to 350 MHz. At these frequencies, the radio waves are very long – comparable to the height of a person – which means more familiar-looking dishes are an inefficient way to catch them. Instead the dipole antennas operate much like TV antennas, with the radio waves from the Universe exciting electrons within their metal arms.

Collectively, the 131,072 dipoles in the completed array will provide the deepest and widest view of the Universe to date.

They will allow us to see out and back to the very beginning of the Universe, when the first stars and galaxies formed.

This key period, more than 13 billion years in our past, is termed the “cosmic dawn”: when stars and galaxies began to form, lighting up the cosmos for the first time.

The cosmic dawn marks the end of the cosmic dark ages, a period after the Big Bang when the Universe had cooled down through expansion. All that remained was the ubiquitous background glow of the early Universe light, and a cosmos filled with dark matter and neutral atoms of hydrogen and helium.

The light from the first stars transformed the Universe, tearing apart the electrons and protons in neutral hydrogen atoms. The Universe went from dark and neutral to bright and ionized.

The SKA Observatory will map this fog of neutral hydrogen at low radio frequencies, which will allow scientists to explore the births and deaths of the earliest stars and galaxies. Exploration of this key period is the final missing piece in our understanding of the life story of the Universe.

Closer to home, the low-frequency telescope will time the revolutions of pulsars. These rapidly spinning neutron stars, which fire out sweeping beams of radiation like lighthouses, are the Universe’s ultra-precise clocks.

Changes to the ticking of these clocks can indicate the passage of gravitational waves through the Universe, allowing us to map these deformations of spacetime with radio waves.

It will also help us to understand the Sun, our own star, and the space environment that we on Earth live within.

These are the things we expect to find with the SKA Observatory. But the unexpected discoveries will most likely be the most exciting. With an observatory of this size and power, we are bound to uncover as-yet-unimagined mysteries of the Universe. – Reuters

Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!

Latest

Editor’s Pick

<?xml encoding=”utf-8″ ??> Ava Whetstone-Magee, the founder of Avalanche Equestrian talks about the lightbulb moment which led her to start her business at the age...

Editor’s Pick

<?xml encoding=”utf-8″ ??> The exodus of workers from the jobs market over the pandemic has weakened prospects for Britain’s economic growth, the governor of...

Editor’s Pick

<?xml encoding=”utf-8″ ??> Will Polston, talks to Business Matters about how helping ambitious owners to maximise their potential has resulted in him becoming a finalist...

News

Elon Musk talks about his company’s Starlink project at the Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, Spain, June 30, 2021. — BRISA PALOMAR / PACIFIC PRESS/SIPA...

News

PHILSTAR FILE PHOTO The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has approved seven “high-impact” projects, ranging from agriculture to transportation, the agency’s top official...

News

Television (TV) advertising is shifting toward addressable TV, a service that allows advertisers to show different ads to different audiences watching the same program,...

You May Also Like

News

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the mental health of Filipinos across different groups all over the archipelago. From frontline workers, parents balancing...

News

REUTERS By Luz Wendy T. Noble, Reporter The country’s foreign exchange buffers slightly increased as of end-October as the value of the central bank’s...

News

BW FILE PHOTO GROSS BORROWINGS by the National Government reached P2.6 trillion as of end-September as it continued to raise funds to respond to...

News

KARASOLAR.COM TENA, Ecuador — Ecuador’s rainforest Achuar people say their ancestors long dreamed of a “fire canoe” or “electric fish” that would let them...

Disclaimer: Respect Investment.com, its managers, its employees, and assigns (collectively "The Company") do not make any guarantee or warranty about what is advertised above. Information provided by this website is for research purposes only and should not be considered as personalized financial advice. The Company is not affiliated with, nor does it receive compensation from, any specific security. The Company is not registered or licensed by any governing body in any jurisdiction to give investing advice or provide investment recommendation. Any investments recommended here should be taken into consideration only after consulting with your investment advisor and after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Copyright © 2022 Respect Investment. All Rights Reserved.