Not so long ago, in South Africa, the first inclusion of systems was made to ensure the operation of a new radio telescope antenna, the height of which is equal to the height of a seven-story building. This antenna, installed in the Karu semi-desert, is one of the key components of the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, which, once completed, will become the largest scientific facility in the world to date.
We remind our readers that the data obtained using the SKA radio telescope will allow scientists to analyze radio waves generated by clusters of charged particles that are billions of light years away from us. This, in turn, will give us the opportunity to explore and find answers to many fundamental questions, including questions about Albert Einstein’s correctness about the nature of gravity, about the nature of magnetism, etc. In addition, the data from the SKA radio telescope will also help with the answer to the question: is humanity alone, as a reasonable species, in the vastness of the Universe?
The new antenna of the radio telescope, with a diameter of 15.25 meters, will not be one of a kind. Within the framework of the SKA project in South Africa and eight other countries adjacent to it, about 3 thousand of such antennas will be installed, combined into a single system. The African array of antennas, combined with the array of lower-frequency antennas in Australia, will form the structure of the SKA telescope, whose effective area will be equal to one square kilometer (1 million square meters).
Unlike light of various ranges, radio waves coming from the depths of the Universe can give scientists a lot more useful information. However, the capture of low-frequency radio waves, which have the greatest information value, requires the construction of a monstrous antenna, the diameter of which will be at least 500 meters. The SKA telescope will have a size of 2900 kilometers, and it will be able to see the depths of space with detail 50 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. And its sensitivity will allow you to pick up radio signals, which is quadrillion times weaker than the signal emitted by your mobile phone.
We remind our readers that the idea of creating a SKA radio telescope was first voiced at a scientific conference in 1990. Since then, about one and a half thousand engineers have been working on this project, and financing was started in 2011 by a consortium of 13 countries. The first phase of construction of the SKA telescope, estimated at $ 1 billion, will be completed by 2027. By that time, the telescope will receive 133 antennas, each of which will reflect the radio waves to a 5-meter intermediate reflector, focusing them on the sensitive element of the receiver.
Each of these antennas will produce about 8.8 terabytes of data per second, which through the fiber-optic communication lines will “flock” to the main control supercomputer. The next step will be to expand the structure of the radio telescope, and the cost and timing of the next stage will be determined only after the completion of the first stage of construction of the radio telescope.