The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be a next generation radio telescope that has a discovery potential 10,000 times greater than the best present-day instruments. It will give astronomers remarkable insights into the formation of the early Universe, including the emergence of the first stars, galaxies and other structures.
Designing such a telescope will require vigorous technological developments in computing, communications and radio frequency devices.
The international SKA program is being progressed by a consortium of institutions from 20 countries, including Australia and New Zealand and countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The International SKA website provides full details about the SKA project.
The SKA will help to answer fundamental questions about the universe.
The five key science drivers for the SKA have been identified as:
- Cradle of life – this project will explore whether there are Earth-like planets around other stars, and whether they host intelligent life, thus helping to answer the eternal question of whether there is life elsewhere in the universe;
- Probing the Dark Ages – this will explore the first black holes and stars, and help to answer the question of what happened after the big bang and before the first stars and galaxies formed;
- The origin and evolution of cosmic magnetism - this will explore how magnetism affects the formation of stars and galaxies, and what maintains the present-day magnetic fields of galaxies, stars and planets;
- Strong field tests of gravity using pulsars and black holes - this will help to test whether Einstein's theory of general relativity is the last word on gravity, for example, whether its predictions for black holes are correct, and whether the cosmos is filled with a gravitational wave background;
- Galaxy evolution, cosmology, and dark matter - this will explore how galaxies are born and how they evolve, and seek a better understanding of the "dark energy" that fills the majority of the universe.
More information about SKA Science can be found on the International SKA website.