SKA Science Overview

This page provides an introduction to the intended science activities of the SKA telescope. If you are seeking additional detail please access the Detailed SKA Science Objectives page.

Radio telescopes receive radio waves produced by distant objects such as stars, galaxies and gas clouds. Observations made by radio telescopes complement those of optical and other telescopes by revealing additional data about the observed structures. Because radio waves can pass through clouds of dust and gas in space, radio telescopes are able to reveal objects and processes not visible to other telescopes.

The SKA's improvements in sensitivity and speed will give astronomers remarkable insights about short-lived phenomena such as radio bursts and changes to the radio signatures of stars. As the SKA will be significantly more sensitive and precise than existing telescopes, it will be able to resolve objects farther away than before. This will allow scientists to investigate the earliest period in the development of the universe. By expanding the volume of space through which scientists can search, it is more likely that the SKA will find arrangements of objects, such as pulsars orbiting black holes, that allow investigation of extreme gravity and magnetism.

The SKA will be used by scientists to investigate five fundamental scientific questions about the universe:

Icon representing How were the first black holes and stars formed?
How were the first black holes and stars formed?

The first black holes and stars formed 13 billion years ago, releasing energy, some of which is only just reaching Earth today. The SKA will be so sensitive that it will detect this energy, effectively seeing back in time to learn about this era in the universe’s development.

Icon representing How do galaxies evolve and what is dark energy?
How do galaxies evolve and what is dark energy?

The universe expands at an ever-increasing rate due to dark energy –and nobody knows what it is. The SKA will enable scientists to learn more about dark energy and how galaxies form and evolve over time.

Icon representing What generates giant magnetic fields in space?
What generates giant magnetic fields in space?

Cosmic magnetism exists throughout the universe, influencing how objects in space form, age and evolve. Only by using a sensitive radio telescope like the SKA can scientists detect and learn from the giant magnetic fields in space.

Icon representing Are we alone in the universe?
Are we alone in the universe?

The SKA will be able to help detect planets with Earth-like conditions and examine the way they are formed. It will also offer the possibility of detecting very faint radio transmissions that might provide evidence for intelligent life among the stars.

Icon representing Was Einstein right?
Was Einstein right?

Einstein’s theory of general relativity involved predictions for the gravity of black holes – predictions that have never been tested or observed. By studying pulsars and black holes, scientists will learn more about gravity and the very laws of physics.

The SKA’s scientific mission will expand into new and unexpected areas as mankind’s understanding of the universe deepens.

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