Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

World’s Largest Telescope

19.01.2006


An image of how one element of the SKA might look (Credit: Chris Fluke, Swinburn University of Technology)


European funding has now been agreed to start designing the world’s largest telescope. The ‘Square Kilometre Array’ (SKA) will be an international radio telescope with a collecting area of one million square metres - equivalent to about 200 football pitches – making SKA 200 times bigger than the University of Manchester’s Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank and so the largest radio telescope ever constructed. Such a telescope would be so sensitive that it could detect TV Broadcasts coming from the nearest stars. The four-year Square Kilometre Array Design Study [SKADS] will bring together European and international astronomers to formulate and agree the most effective design. The final design will enable the SKA to probe the cosmos in unprecedented detail, answering fundamental questions about the Universe, such as ‘what is dark energy?’ and “how did the structure we see in galaxies today actually form?’

The new telescope will test Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to the limit – and perhaps prove it wrong. It is certain to add to the long list of fundamental discoveries already made by radio astronomers including quasars, pulsars and the radiation left over from the Big Bang. By the end of this decade the design will be complete and astronomers anticipate building SKA in stages, leading to completion and full operation in 2020.

The SKA concept was first proposed to observe the characteristic radio emission from hydrogen gas. Measurements of the hydrogen signature will enable astronomers to locate and weigh a billion galaxies.



As the University of Manchester’s Professor Peter Wilkinson points out, “hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but its signal is weak and so a huge collecting area is needed to be able to study it at the vast distances that take us back in time towards the Big Bang”. To which Professor Steve Rawlings, Oxford University, added,” the distribution of these galaxies in space tells us how the universe has evolved since the Big Bang and hence about the nature of the Dark Energy which is now making the universe expand faster with time”.

Another target for the SKA is pulsars; spinning remnants of stellar explosions which are the most accurate clocks in the universe. A million times the mass of the Earth but only the size of a large city, pulsars can spin around hundreds of times per second. Already these amazing objects have enabled astronomers to confirm Einstein’s prediction of gravitational waves, but Manchester’s Dr. Michael Kramer is looking further ahead “with the SKA we will find a pulsar orbiting a black hole and, by watching how the clock rate varies, we can tell if Einstein had the last word on gravity or not”.

Professor Richard Schilizzi, the International SKA Project Director, stresses the scale of the instrument needed to fulfil these science goals. "Designing and then building, such an enormous technologically-advanced instrument is beyond the scope of individual nations. Only by harnessing the ideas and resources of countries around the world is such a project possible”. Astronomers in Australia, South Africa, Canada, India, China and the USA are collaborating closely with colleagues in Europe to develop the required technology which will include sophisticated electronics and powerful computers that will play a far bigger role than in the present generation of radio telescopes. The European effort is based on phased array receivers, similar to those in aircraft radar systems. When placed at the focus of conventional mass-produced radio “dishes”, these arrays operate like wide-angle radio cameras enabling huge areas of sky to be observed simultaneously. A separate, much larger, phased array at the centre of the SKA will act like a radio fish-eye lens, constantly scanning the sky.

Funding for this global design programme has been provided by the European Commission’s Framework 6 “Design Studies” programme which is contributing about 27% of the total of €38M funding over the next four years. Individual countries are contributing the remainder. The UK has invested £5.6M (€8.3M) funding provided by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council [PPARC]. When coupled with the UK’s share of the EC contribution then the UK’s overall contribution to the SKA Design Study (SKADS) programme is about 30% of the total.

The €38M European technology development programme is funded by the European Commission and governments in eight countries led by the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France and Italy. The programme is being coordinated by Ir. Arnold van Ardenne, Head of Emerging Technologies at The Netherlands ASTRON Institute. In van Ardenne’s view “the critical task is to demonstrate that large numbers of electronic arrays can be built cost effectively – so that our dreams of radio cameras and radio fish-eye lenses can be turned into reality”.

In the UK a group of universities currently including Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds and Glasgow, funded by the Particle Physics Research Council, is involved in all aspects of the design but is concentrating on sophisticated digital phased arrays and the distribution and analysis of the enormous volumes of data which the SKA will produce. Cambridge University’s Dr. Paul Alexander makes the point that “the electronics in the SKA makes it very flexible and allows for completely new ways of scanning the sky. But to make it work will require massive computing power”. Designers believe that by the time the SKA reaches full operation, 14 years from now, a new generation of computers will be up to the task.

The geographical location of SKA will be decided in the mid-term future and several nations have already expressed interest in hosting this state of the art astronomical facility.

Peter Barratt | alfa
Further information:
http://www.pparc.ac.uk
http://www.skatelescope.org
http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/ska/brochure/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>