The decision has been warmly welcomed by Australian and New Zealand Ministers, scientists and officials and will provide a significant boost to the science capabilities of both countries. For the project itself, the outcome means that infrastructure in both sites can be fully utilised and increased scientific outcomes, like a hi-tech survey component, can be built in to the SKA at minimal additional cost.
In Australia, SKA Phase 1 will now incorporate the expansion of the $150 million ASKAP telescope into a larger survey telescope of roughly 100 dishes. This telescope will utilise the revolutionary Phased Array Feed receivers invented by CSIRO to allow the telescope to survey the sky faster and in more detail than ever before. Phase 1 will also see a large number of low frequency antennas situated in Australia’s core site in Western Australia. All this will require very high levels of data processing power, which will be housed in Perth’s $80 million Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.
If Phase 1 is successfully completed in both countries, the plan is for the low frequency component to be expanded across Australia and New Zealand’s full baseline as part of Phase 2, though work on this will not begin until around 2020.
In terms of science outcomes, the low frequency aspects of the SKA will be used to look further into the distant universe than ever before. This means that scientists will for the first time be able to look at data from just after the Big Bang. The capacity to do this has not been available to astronomers before and the SKA will be a groundbreaking instrument capable of truly transformational science.
Links for further information:
SKA Members Statement.
Minister Chris Evans and Minister Steven Joyce’s full joint media release.
CSIRO’s media release.
ICRAR’s media release.
anzSKA Project Director Dr. Brian Boyle’s project update.