Australia will host the low-frequency array of the SKA telescope. On a surface the size of the Netherlands, the shire where the SKA antennas will be deployed is home to just over 100 people, making it one of the most radio quiet zones on the planet. This is an ideal location for the hundreds of thousands low-frequency antennas which will be able to detect extremely weak signals coming from the very early days of the formation of the first stars and galaxies, a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.
Artist impression of the SKA antennas on the Australian SKA site
SKA1-low, the first phase of the SKA low-frequency array, will conduct research into one of the most interesting periods of the Universe, looking back to the first billion years of the Universe to look at the formation of the first stars and galaxies, providing valuable insight into dark matter and dark energy and the evolution of the Universe.
It will provide an increased capability over existing infrastructure at the same frequencies, providing 25% better resolution and being 8 times more sensitive than LOFAR, the current best such instrument. Moreover, it will be able to scan the sky 135 times faster.
The Murchison region where the SKA telescope will be located, are traditional lands of the Wajarri Yamatji People, who signed an indigenous land use agreement, which protects the Aboriginal people’s cultural heritage. The agreement also brought significant benefits in terms of education and infrastructure to the local peoples in what is one of the most sparsely populated regions on Earth.
Dedication ceremony of the ASKAP telescope, a precursor facility to the SKA located at the Murchison Radio Observatory (Image courtesy of Sky and Telescope)