(ORDO NEWS) — Australia on Monday began building an extensive network of antennas in the country’s uninhabited hinterland.
According to the designers, this network of antennas will become part of one of the most powerful radio telescopes in the world.
When all is done, the antennas in Australia and the dish network in South Africa will form the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), a massive instrument that aims to unravel the mysteries of the creation of stars, galaxies and extraterrestrial life.
The idea for a telescope first surfaced in the early 1990s, but the project has suffered from delays, funding problems and diplomatic machinations.
Philip Diamond, Director General of the SKA Observatory, described the start of construction as significant. According to him, the telescope will be one of the greatest scientific achievements of mankind in history.
The name of the project is related to the original goal of the designers – a telescope that could observe the surface of one square kilometer.
However, according to the observatory, the current South African and Australian sites will have a combined collection area of just under half that area.
In Western Australia, more than 130,000 antennas are planned to be built on traditional Wajarri Aboriginal lands. About 200 plates will be installed in South Africa.
The designers say the two objects will provide SKA with higher sensitivity than single-dish radio telescopes because their arrays are spread out to form a much larger “virtual dish”.
The project will help plot the birth and death of galaxies, search for new types of gravitational waves, and push the boundaries of what we know about the universe, scientists say.
Danny Price of the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy said the telescope would be extremely powerful: “SKA will be able to detect a mobile phone in an astronaut’s pocket on Mars, 225 million kilometers away.”
The SKA Observatory, headquartered at Jodrell Bank in the UK, said the telescope should start making scientific observations by the end of the 2020s.
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