2015 SKA News Archive

2015 SKA Project News Archive

October - December

Australia announces $293.7 million in SKA funding

On Monday 7 December 2015, the Australian Government took an important step towards hosting the SKA when the Prime Minister announced a provisional funding allocation for the project as part of its National Innovation and Science Agenda.

As part of the announcement, $293.7 million over 10 years was set aside to meet Australia’s initial commitment to the SKA. More...

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Funding boost for SKA precursor telescope

2 November 2015

Scientists and Parliamentary Secretary Karen Andrews at the MWA

Congratulations to the Murchison Widefield Array for being awarded a $1 million Australian Research Council grant. The grant will be used to expand the number of MWA tiles from 128 to 256, quadrupling the telescope's capabilities.

Read more about the recent funding announcement on the ABC News website.

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India joins SKA Organisation

6 October 2015

The Indian Government has signed the SKA Membership Agreement. The agreement takes India from Associate Member to Member of the SKA Organisation. SKA Director General Professor Phil Diamond and Indian Secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy Dr R. K. Sinha signed documents on Monday 5 October in Mumbai, India.

Read more about India's membership at the SKA Organisation website.

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July - September

WA Premier Barnett visits SKA site

30 September 2015

2015-09-30 Premier_MRO_Visit_thumb.jpgEarlier this week, Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett joined CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science Chief Lewis Ball and ICRAR directors Carole Jackson and Lister Staveley-Smith on a visit to the future home of the SKA in WA’s Mid West.

In his first visit to the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, in the state's central Mid-West Region, the Premier toured the MRO Control Building, ASKAP antennas, and MWA equipment.

Read more about the Premier's visit at The West Australian newspaper.


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New: Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array

17 September 2015

The SKA Organisation has announced the publication of Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array. The publication describes the enormously broad science case for the SKA telescope. Totalling over 2000 pages long, this two-volume book, comprises 135 chapters written by 1,213 contributors from 31 nations.

Australian and New Zealand astronomers have made a huge contribution to this publication, co-authoring 53 of the 135 chapters

“The new SKA Science Book is significant for the breadth of science it covers and the global nature of its contributions. The SKA will push into new and emerging areas of astrophysics, and the book highlights many areas that can only be addressed through high-sensitivity radio astronomy. Australia’s astrophysicists can feel incredibly proud of their involvement in this ambitious set of goals. With so many young astronomers amongst them, Australian astronomy certainly has a bright future.”

Prof Carole Jackson, ICRAR-Curtin University acting Science Director and Australia’s SKA Science Advisory Committee Chair.

“The new SKA Science Book is a great illustration of the excellent science that will be done by SKA. It’s very satisfying to have so many Australian astronomers as authors, and to see the cutting-edge science we expect from the innovative SKA1-Low instrument in Western Australia.”

Dr Sarah Pearce, CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science Deputy Director, and Australia’s science representative on the SKA Board.

More details are available in the international SKA media release.

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Australia-China stars shine brightly at ACAMAR launch

15 September 2015

Nobel Laureate and ANU Professor of Physics Brian Schmidt  has received a rock star-like welcome in China, presenting to packed university auditoriums and launching the latest Australia-China astronomy collaboration. Following a series of highly successful lectures, Professor Schmidt officially launched the Australia-ChinA ConsortiuM for Astrophysical Research (ACAMAR) on 12 September 2015. Named after a bright star visible from both China and Australia, ACAMAR will see China and Australia further cooperate in areas of astronomy including infrastructure and human capital development.

Read more about Professor Schmidt's China visit.

Australian and Chinese representatives sign documents at the launch of ACAMAR. 


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Minister Ian Macfarlane: Path to prosperity lies in big ideas

3 September 2015ian-macfarlane.jpg

The Australian Government is boosting our nation's innovation and helping to transform great Australian ideas into great Australian products and services. This includes inventions such as the CSIRO-developed Phased Array Feed receiver - designed for the ASKAP telescope, and now being produced for overseas telescopes. Read Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane's op-ed at The Australian.


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West Australian-led innovation could save SKA millions

3 September 2015

2015-09-03_SADT_Tests.jpgA WA-led innovation has overcome a limitation in above-ground fibre-optic cabling that could save the SKA project millions in costs. University of Western Australia researchers Sascha Schediwy and David Gozzard, tested a new frequency synchronisation system developed at UWA in South Africa in June. The technology was developed as part of the international Signal and Data Transport (SaDT) consortium. This consortium is in charge of developing the signal and data network for the international SKA Project. Read more at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research website.


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Neutron star jets and the slow death of the Universe

13 August 2015Neutron jets.png

The Perth-based International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has been making headlines in the lead up to the International Astronomy Union General Assembly in Honolulu with two incredible discoveries.

An international team of scientists have discovered super-dense neutron stars which shoot powerful jets of material into space - a feat previously thought to be exclusive to black holes. On a darker tack, ICRAR has used 7 of the world’s most powerful telescopes to look into the future and forecast the impending death of the Universe.  Find out more about our slow demise here.


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SKA's the limit for young Australians with their sights on science

22 July 2015

N6blgNx1In[1].jpgA thought provoking piece from Karen Andrews, Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Science.

Mrs Andrews discusses the importance of ‘moon shot thinking’. She specifically points to the invention of Wi-Fi, the mind boggling processing power required of SKA supercomputers, and the value to Australian industry of inspiring the next generation of science, technology, engineering and maths graduates. More at The Guardian.


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Radio quiet for the most powerful telescope in history

20 July 2015

A very interesting piece from the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Emily Wilson. Ms Wilson was one of a handful of journalists invited to tour the Australian SKA site. Other invited guests included: experts in the field of radio-astronomy; WA Chief Scientist Peter Klinken; and Karen Andrews, Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Science.

Ms Wilson's article touches on radio quiet in the shire of Murchison and what that means if you’re a radio-astronomer studying radio waves from the dawn of the universe. Supercomputers, data analysis and the awesome complexities of building the SKA - a mega-science project with 10 other countries - are also discussed.  More at the Guardian. 


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Visit to Australia's SKA site coincides with the commencement of treaty negotiations

17 July 2015

Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Science, Karen Andrews, paid a visit to Australia's SKA site this week. Mrs Andrews was joined by WA Chief Scientist Peter Klinken, a selection of Australia’s top astronomers, government officials, and media representatives. The party visited the ASKAP and MWA telescopes located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, as well as support buildings and infrastructure.

“This amazing world class observatory with its two precursor radio telescopes demonstrates that Australia is ready and able to host this exciting telescope project,” Mrs Andrews said.

The visit coincided with the Australian Government indicating recent meetings in Brussels had cleared the way for treaty talks to lay down the terms of the project.

“Treaty negotiations reflect a new chapter of engagement within the global project because they will solidify the rights and responsibilities of SKA member nations, paving the way for construction to begin in 2018,” Mrs. Andrews said.

Read the full media release on Parliamentary Secretary Andrews's homepage. Additional coverage at The Australian.

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Germany buys CSIRO's award-winning telescope technology

14 July 2015

CSIRO has sold advanced phased array feed (PAF) receiver technol­ogy developed for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) to the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. The institute operates a major observatory in Germany.

This novel technology increases a radio telescope’s field of view. With the technology, ASKAP is one the world's most advanced survey radio telescope.

Antony Schinckel, the project director of ASKAP said CSIRO has had a great deal of interest in using the phased array feed on other telescopes. For the ASKAP telescope, Antony and his team won the Manufacturing, Construction and Infrastructure category prize, as well as the overall prize in The Australian Innovation Challenge awards last year. More at The Australian.

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WA Premier applauds Australia's SKA precursor telescopes

13 July 2015

The world-class telescopes at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in WA's Mid West are producing outstanding scientific results. These successes are paving the way for Western Australia to co-host the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

Premier and Science Minister Colin Barnett said the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope had collected six petabytes of data (enough to fill more than one million DVDs) since starting operations in July 2013.

"This makes it one of the first astronomy facilities to enter the era of big data," Mr Barnett said. More


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Dishes - Dana Anaru - thumbnail.jpgThe Australian SKA Office and Australian radio astronomy community have celebrated NAIDOC week. NAIDOC week is a celebration of the history, culture, and achievements of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Australia's SKA community has a productive partnership with the Wajarri Yamatji people. The Wajarri Yamatji are the traditional custodians of the land on which the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, the Australian SKA Pathfinder, and Murchison Widefield Array telescopes are situated.

On Tuesday 7 July, Secretary of the Department of Industry and Science Glenys Beauchamp launched the latest collaborative exhibition as part of NAIDOC week celebrations. The exhibition is entitled 'Balagardi Barnagardi', or, ‘Across to the other land’. This and previous exhibitions bring together Wajarri artists and SKA astronomers to create art at the junction of science and Indigenous culture.

Read more about the Balagardi Barnagardi exhibition (7-9 July in Canberra) here. You can also read Steven Tingay’s article on the Ilgarijiri exhibitions here.


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6 July 2015

CSIRO astronomers today announced the detection of signals from a distant ancient galaxy. The signals provide insight into galactic development and demonstrate the capability of Australia's ASKAP telescope.

Using just six of ASKAP's 36 dishes, astronomers were able to clearly observe distant galaxy PKS B12740-517. The observation ably demonstrates one of ASKAP's roles of detecting and cataloguing distant and as-yet unobserved astronomical objects.

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Australian SKA community farewells retiring Dr Michelle Storey

2 July 2015 


MStorey-30062015.jpgAfter many years in the Australian SKA community, Michelle Storey has hung up her lanyard and entered a well-deserved retirement.

Michelle's contributions as Executive Officer within CSIRO have been instrumental to the establishment of the SKA in Australia and the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory. Michelle's quiet but outstanding dedication to the SKA project was recognised when she recieved a Public Service Medal from the Governor-General as part of the 2012 Australia Day Honours.

Michelle will be missed, but her contributions to the future of the radio-astronomy community will last for many years to come.



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April - June

The Australian SKA Office has a new Twitter account!

9 June 2015

SKA_Twitter.pngThe Australian Square Kilometre Array Twitter page aims to provide you with the latest information on the SKA project and its Australian stakeholders. Through it you can engage with international partners, astronomers, researchers, industry members, and the general public in an online conversation about this transformational project.

For more information, read our social media disclaimer.




New science, ancient land: the SKA inspires new Indigenous art

2 June 2015

For several years, artists from the Art Centre Yamaji Art Centre in Geraldton, WA, have been creating artworks that fuse traditional stories of the night sky with the cutting edge science of the SKA. This is made possible by the special relationship that has developed between the artists and SKA scientists.

Inspired by interactions with the scientists and their telescopes, the artists produced an impressive range of paintings. The project has been captured in a short video showcasing some of the artworks and the Indigenous stories that inspired them. The stories are narrated by some of the Yamaji artists themselves.

Find more information here.



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Farewell to Professor Brian Boyle

The Australian SKA Office is sad to say goodbye to Professor Brian Boyle who has recently finished up as Australian SKA Project Director. Professor Brian will now take up a role at the University of New South Wales. 

Brian has made a significant contribution to the SKA over many years and has been a key figure in Australia’s astronomy community for even longer. Brian’s vision, leadership and personal drive was instrumental in bringing the Australian and Western Australian governments into the project.  His ability to inspire, strategise and lead earned him an Australian Public Service Medal.

Find out more about Brian and his contribution to astronomy and the SKA Project.


19 May 2015
The SKA Organisation has released the latest bulletin. The bulletin offers an overview of the project, its system engineering, architecture, science, and more.
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SKA permanent headquarters selected

30 April 2015


After thoughtful consideration, SKA Members have selected the current headquarters site at Jodrell Bank, near Manchester UK, to be the permanent location of the SKA Organisation's international headquarters.

A competitive proposal was also submitted by Italy. The proposal was backed by strong support from the Italian government and research institutions, which are of key value to the project.

The international SKA Organisation and the UK government will soon engage in negotiations to develop a suitable hosting agreement. This decision is an important development for the SKA project. Inter-governmental negotiations to establish an SKA Treaty will soon commence. Funding arrangements for the construction of Phase 1 to begin in 2018 will also soon be underway. Read the full press release from the SKA Organisation.​

SKAHQ.jpgArtist’s impression of the future SKA headquartersCredit: University of Manchester.    




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Amazon continues to support SKA innovation

29 April 2015

Amazon Web Services has teamed up with the SKA Organisation to offer the AstroCompute in the Cloud grant programme. The programme is aimed at encouraging the development of innovative tools and techniques for processing, storing and analysing the vast amounts of data expected from the SKA.

This programme builds on previous successful collaborations between Amazon and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research on theSkyNet, and with CSIRO on the pulsar catalogue and ASKAP data archives.

New solutions in cloud processing, data analysis and visualisation will likely generate innovations applicable to other industries. The development of pharmaceutical drugs, weather forecasting, and the designing and engineering of smarter infrastructure will all likely be effected.

For more details on this collaboration, refer to the SKAO  press release.


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Murchison Widefield Array prepares for big data challenges 

22 April 2015

Bigdata.pngThe SKA is at the forefront of big data challenges, developing solutions with broad commercial and research applications.

After approximately 18 months of operation, the Murchison Widefield Array - an SKA precursor telescope - has collected over 4 petabytes of data. This is enough data to fill 8,000,000 average computer hard drives.

Find out how the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth is archiving these massive data sets and preparing for future challenges from Science WA.
The MWA | Credit: Murchison Widefield Array   


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Initial ASKAP results are in!

10 April 2015

AskapElevated.jpgThree early scientific results from the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope were unveiled at the OzSKA conference yesterday. All results indicated promising outcomes for future ASKAP projects.

CSIRO teams have identified what appear to be dark clouds of hydrogen gas associated with a galaxy; observed an unusually inactive pulsar; and detected a five-billion-year-old radio signal from a distant galaxy.

These results demonstrate ASKAP’s great capabilities and the quality work done by CSIRO researchers.

Find out more from CSIRO.
ASKAP antennas | Credit: CSIRO      
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OzSKA conference explores radio astronomy in the next decade 

8 April 2015

RobertBraun.jpgHeld at the University of Melbourne over 8-10 April, OzSKA will explore radio astronomy and the SKA. The SKA will herald a new era in radio astronomy. The project will increase astronomical knowledge, provide new opportunities for scientists, and impact industry through the development of new technologies. The SKA will also raise the profile of science in the wider community, thus benefiting science education.

Opening speakers include David Luchetti from the Australian SKA Office, and Dr Robert Braun, Science Director of the international SKA Organisation. Dr Robert Braun is pictured here talking about “Science with the SKA”.

For a full list of speakers or more information, refer to the CAASTRO website.

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SKA buzz at Australia's largest astronomy festival

1 April 2015 

Astrofest.jpgScience shows, telescopes, astrophotography displays, and other attractions entertained over 4,500 visitors on the weekend at Astrofest. The event is Australia’s largest annual astronomy festival.

Held at Curtin University, the festival featured plenty of SKA, including a project update from Prof Peter Quinn, Director of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.

Check out more information and photos from Astronomy WA.  


  A model of the MWA, SKA percursor telescope, featured at Astrofest.
  Credit: Astronomy WA Astrofest 2015

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January - March


24 March 2015
The SKA Organisation has released the latest bulletin. The bulletin offers an overview of the project, its system engineering, architecture, science, and more.


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ASKAIC members collaborate to open Innovation Centre

20 March 2015

Cisco has just announced it will invest $US15 million over five years to open in Australia its eighth Internet of Everything Innovation Centre. The plan was sparked by ideas generated during meetings and discussions with the Australian Government’s Australasian SKA Industry Cluster (ASKAIC).

The new centre will be based in both Sydney and Perth. Big data research, prototyping innovative new concepts, and features and functionalities in the Internet of Everything (IoE) space will be the focus. The centre will provide dedicated space to demonstrate IoE in action. Open areas where Cisco experts, customers, start-ups, open communities, researchers, entrepreneurs and technology enthusiasts can work on new ideas will also be provided. Partners so far include Sirca, Curtin University and Woodside Energy. 

Prof Steven Tingay of Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy, discusses the linkages between SKA, technology, industry, and science: “Technology developed for the SKA will not only help us solve the great mysteries of science, but will also have benefits for business. SKA and its precursor projects are really motivating a lot of different people to come together and think about how we can use those opportunities more broadly. We see the Internet of Everything Innovation Centre, Australia as a good platform to extend our partnership with Cisco and to collaborate with other companies who are producing big data sets and struggling with the same sorts of things that we're struggling with as scientists."  More information from Cisco






Chuck Robbins, Cisco's senior vice president of worldwide operations

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Update from Australian SKA Project Director

10 March 2015

Australian SKA Project Director Professor Brian Boyle attended the SKA Board and Members meetings in Manchester last week.

Read his Director’s Update for the latest developments in the international project or refer to the latest media release on the international SKA website.

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World's Largest Astronomy Lesson in WA

4 March 2015

If you needed any more proof that Australians love astronomy, over 1,000 people took part in the 'World's Largest Astronomy Lesson’ in Perth on the weekend. The effort smashes the previous Guinness World Record of 834.

Check out the photos (thanks to John Goldsmith / CelestialVisions.com.au) and read more about it on ICRAR news.


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Businesses keen to harness SKA precursor technology 

Curtin.jpg27 February 2015


Professor Tingay, director of the Murchison Widefield Array, is excited about the technology used by the SKA precursor telescope to deal with large data sets. The technology has the potential to benefit many companies and business groups.

"A government investment into fundamental science can spin off into broader economic returns across a lot of different industries."                                                                                                               Image: Curtin University


Read more on ABC Mid West News.



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Yamaji and South African artists share their skies...

26 February 2015


Shared Sky is an art exhibition that sheds light on traditional Australian and South African imagery, stories and beliefs about the Universe, and constellations and stars. The exhibition was Recently launched in both Australia and South Africa.


ABC Open Mid West WA caught up with some of the Yamaji artists to document their experience of creating artwork inspired by their traditions and the SKA. Check out the video below and this Flickr photo collection.


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Astronomer's profile: Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith, CSIRO

 24 February 2015


Dr Harvey-Smith is one of the key astronomers working on the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope at CSIRO's Astronomy and Space Science division. Listen to her talk about why she gets excited looking at stars and galaxies, and how she inspires others to share her passion!

"We don't know what 96% of the universe is made of."
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Mk II PAF provides significant performance improvement for ASKAP

19 February 2015

MkII.jpgThe latest test results of the second generation (Mk II) phased-array feed (PAF) receiver used at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory have confirmed a significant improvement. The Mk II PAFs have twice the sensitivity and four times the survey speed of the first generation receiver.

The Mk II PAF design builds on lessons learnt in the design, development, construction, and commissioning of the Mk I PAF system.

Congratulations to the ASKAP team! Find out more on the CSIRO media release.

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Unlocking the mystery of the first billion years of the universe

19 February 2015


Universe.jpgProf Steven Tingay has written a great article on The Conversation about the work of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope - an SKA precursor telescope. The MWA is beginning to uncover the first billion years of the Universe’s life. The low frequency SKA telescope will be approximately 100 times bigger than the MWA and promises many more discoveries.


“The great news for Australia is that this much bigger SKA facility will be built on the same site as the MWA in Western Australia, learning from our solid and hard won experience, placing Australian science and engineering
on page one of the next exciting multi-decade chapter in the unfolding story
of cosmic discovery.”


Read the full article on The Conversation.

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Prof McClure-Griffiths discusses SKA at AAAS Meeting

19 February 2015

Australian-based astrophysicist Prof Naomi McClure-Griffiths joined a host of high-profile speakers at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The society is the world's largest and most prestigious general scientific society. They are also the publisher of the scientific journal Science.

The SKA project was the focus of one of the sessions. During this session Prof McClure-Griffiths discussed the Australian SKA Pathfinder radio telescope and the data it is expected to harness through its revolutionary wide-field receiver technology.

Other speakers included Prof Phil Diamond (SKA Director General), Nadeli Pandor (South African Minister of Science and Technology), Dr Bernie Fanaroff (SKA South Africa Project Director) and Anthony J. Beasley (Director of National Radio Astronomy Observatory).

For a full list of presenters and more topics discussed, refer to the 2015 AAAS Meeting website.

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Shared Sky Exhibition opens in South Africa

SharedSky.jpg16 February 2015

The SKA’s indigenous art / astronomy exhibition Shared Sky was launched in South Africa today at the prestigious Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town. The exhibition was previously launched in Perth in September.

The exhibition brings together work by aboriginal and local artists from locations around the SKA sites in Australia and South Africa. The artists collaborate to produce an exhibition celebrating humanity’s ancient cultural wisdom. “Shared Sky connects ancient peoples who have been doing astronomy for millennia & today’s astronomers. It’s just the tools that have changed” said Simon Berry, Head of Policy Development  at the SKA Organisation.

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New image of Tuscana constellation 3 times larger than previous efforts  

02 February 2015

The Australian SKA Pathfinder team have created a new image to demonstrate the rapid, widefield survey capability of the phased array feed receivers developed for the SKA precursor.

Three separate 12-hour observations were used to create this 150 square degree image. The image covers an area of the sky around 750 times the size of a full moon!

Refer to CSIRO's news article for more details.

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SKAO January Bulletin

January 2015

The SKA Organisation has released the latest bulletin. The bulletin offers an overview of the project, its system engineering, architecture, science, and more.

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Another step forward for the SKA engineering

29 January 2015

The preliminary design review of the low-frequency element of the SKA is now done! This was the fourth of 11 design reviews to take place, providing each consortium with feedback to help them progress to a final design for the SKA. Discover more about the SKA's design process and the consortia here.

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Preparing to map the Universe

27 January 2015

MappingtheUniverse.jpgIn a recently published series of papers, a team of scientists from around the world have set out their plans for putting together the biggest map of the Universe ever made.

The papers are part of a larger series of some 130 papers to be released as a unique science book (Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array) in summer 2015 by the SKA Organisation. The collection will cover science areas the SKA is expected to contribute to. These areas include pulsars, cosmic magnetism, the early stages of the Universe, and the search for life in the Universe. Of course, the SKA will also deliver transformational
science that we haven’t even dreamed of yet.

Find out more about how the SKA will map the cosmos on the SKA Organisation website.


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SKAO November - December Bulletin

6 January 2015


The SKA Organisation has released the latest bulletin. The bulletin offers an overview of the project, its system engineering, architecture, science, and more.


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