The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope is a next-generation radio telescope currently being designed by an international collaboration of institutes and agencies from over 20 countries. The SKA telescope will be made up of over 3,000 15 metre wide radio receiver dishes and other antennas strategically placed in spiral sequence across a continent. The Australia-New Zealand proposal allows for over 5,000km between the most distant antennas. Advanced electronics and computer processing will enable the 3,000 separate antennas to work as a single very large telescope. The SKA's overall antenna surface area and very large array width will improve sensitivity and resolution. It will have a discovery potential 10,000 times greater than any modern radio telescope. By capturing billion-year old cosmic radio waves, the SKA will enable astronomers to unlock some of the biggest mysteries of our universe. It is expected to provide insights into dark energy and how the first stars and galaxies were formed.
The SKA will be jointly funded by several countries and the SKA project is currently governed by an international body representing partner countries. The SKA project is currently seeking the most appropriate location to build the SKA. The selected site will suit the requirements of the construction and operation of the telescope such as its need for low radio interference, favourable geography and climate, and suitable support and work environments. An Australia-New Zealand proposal is one of two shortlisted host proposals – the other proposal being from a collaboration of nine southern African countries led by the Republic of South Africa. The SKA site selection announcement is expected in early 2012 with the telescope due to be operational by 2020.
More information: Square Kilometre Array telescope website