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Old March 19th, 2013, 03:45 PM   #1
Lydon
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Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Telescope

Figured I'd create a thread for what will become the world's most powerful telescope in the coming years

About

The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.

Thousands of linked radio wave receptors will be located in Southern Africa and Australia. Combining the signals from the antennas in each region will create a telescope with a collecting area equivalent to a dish with an area of about one square kilometre.

The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth.

The Square Kilometre Array is a global science and engineering project led by the SKA Organisation, a not-for-profit company with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester, UK.

An array of dish receptors will extend into eight African countries from a central core region in the Karoo desert of South Africa. A further array of mid frequency aperture arrays will also be built in the Karoo. A smaller array of dish receptors and an array of low frequency aperture arrays will be located in the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia.

The target construction cost is €1,500 million and construction is scheduled to start in 2016.

When completed in 2024 the telescope will be made up of 3000 dishes, each 15 metres wide, together with many more antennae, that together will give a receiver surface area of one square kilometre.

Scanning the sky 10,000 times faster and with 50 times the sensitivity of any other telescope, it will be able to see 10 times further into the universe and detect signals that are 10 times older.


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Source: SKA Telescope
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Old March 19th, 2013, 03:47 PM   #2
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MeerKAT

The MeerKAT array, currently taking shape in South Africa's Karoo region, is a world-class radio telescope designed to do ground-breaking science. It will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere until the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is completed around 2024. Via MeerKAT, South Africa is playing a key role in design and technology developments for the SKA.

Close to 100 young scientists and engineers are working on the MeerKAT project. Based at the engineering office in Cape Town, and at universities and technology companies across South Africa and Africa, these researchers interact closely with SKA teams around the world. In collaboration with South African industry and universities, and collaborating with global institutions, the South African team has developed technologies and systems for the MeerKAT telescope, including innovative composite telescope dishes and cutting-edge signal processing hardware and algorithms.

MeerKAT - now an integral part of the SKA

Prof Justin Jonas, Associate Director: Science and Engineering at SKA South Africa, is very excited about the implications of the SKA site decision for the role that South Africa's MeerKAT telescope will play in the future of the SKA. "The decision recognises MeerKAT as a key instrument that will make up one quarter of SKA Phase 1 mid-frequency array, and the science planned for SKA Phase 1 is very similar to the MeerKAT science case - just much more ambitious," he explains. "Our researchers and students who participate in the MeerKAT surveys have a huge advantage. They are well placed to enter SKA Phase 1. They have the opportunity to become science leaders in future SKA projects."

Up to 2016 South Africa will be constructing the 64 MeerKAT dishes in the Karoo and construction on 190 SKA Phase 1 dishes should start more or less when MeerKAT is complete. "The design of the SKA dishes is not yet final, but they should look similar to the Gregorian-offset dish design chosen for MeerKAT," Prof Jonas expects.


















Source: http://www.ska.ac.za/
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Old March 19th, 2013, 03:50 PM   #3
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SKA looking for extra terrestrials
2013-03-19 15:07

Cape Town – The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope will be looking for signs of life on other planets, project director Bernie Fanaroff said on Tuesday.

"We want to look for organic molecules, the molecules of life out in space and, of course, we want to look for extraterrestrial intelligence," he told delegates at a New Age breakfast in Johannesburg.

Fanaroff said the telescope would be so sensitive that if a person was sitting with the SKA on a star 50 light years away from Earth, and they looked back at the planet, they would see "all the airport radars, TV transmitters and SABC programmes".

"So, if we have it on Earth and we are looking out at all these stars and new planets which are being discovered, we hope to be able to see if there is a civilisation out there that is broadcasting."

The SKA project would be the most powerful radio astronomy telescope in the world upon completion. Construction was set to start in 2017.

The majority of the project, the full dish array and the dense aperture array, will be built in Africa. The sparse aperture (or low frequency) array will be built in Western Australia.

Fanaroff said the global project had 10 member countries and four guest countries.

The "very substantial" costs would be shared by all countries. He said that for the pre-construction stage, a total of about R9.2m was committed for the four years leading up to 2016.

"We are still waiting to hear for contributions from Germany and India."

He said the design for the first phase of the telescope would be sent to the SKA board in July for costing, and a decision would be made whether to cap costs or build to design.

Still under negotiation was the amount each country would contribute.

"Every country wants to be able to say we are investing in it and what are we getting back from it?" Fanaroff said.

He hoped to get the United States of America on board from 2020 onwards.

In the meantime, South Africa had signed an agreement with IBM and the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy to research the vast high-performance technology needed to read, store, and analyse raw data.

"We are [also] playing a leading role in the international SKA organisation in many of these [wireless technology] projects and are doing some really nice work on digital signal processing," Fanaroff said.

A team in Cape Town, together with institutions in the US and other countries, had developed very fast computing boards that digitised signals and converted them into something that could be understood.

The US had apparently completed the first-generation design.

Fanaroff said it was encouraging that South Africa had completed the second and third generation designs and was selling them back to the US and other countries.

"That's a really nice example of the fact that we can do it in South Africa," he said.

Source: News24
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Old June 14th, 2013, 12:37 PM   #4
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From the SKA Facebook page:

Click on the link below for a time-lapse video of construction at South Africa’s SKA site in the Karoo that was recorded during the last week of May 2013. It shows infrastructure being prepared for the 64-dish MeerKAT, the SKA-precursor that will be built in South Africa. Other precursor telescopes are being built in Australia, the other site of the SKA telescope. (Photo by Dawie Fourie)

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2Xc...=sharing&pli=1

image hosted on flickr
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Old June 15th, 2013, 08:27 AM   #5
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This is great news. I don't think people realise how big this project is, or how much more it will open up space exploration for humanity. We need to start getting some more coverage of this, some more excitement!
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Old June 15th, 2013, 09:17 AM   #6
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I think once the MEERKAT is done and the dishes for the main project start breaking ground it'll be a sight to behold
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Old June 28th, 2013, 10:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
The all-weather landing strip close to the core of the SKA site in South Africa is nearing completion, and the existing on-site dish shed is doubling in size. Tracy Cheetham is in charge of infrastructure preparations for the MeerKAT array.





Source: SKA Facebook Page
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Last edited by Lydon; June 28th, 2013 at 10:29 AM.
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Old July 19th, 2013, 03:15 PM   #8
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Source: SKA South Africa on Facebook
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Old July 19th, 2013, 07:50 PM   #9
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Nice!
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Old July 20th, 2013, 08:18 AM   #10
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I hear some of the sensitive equipment is in underground bunkers...really starting to take shape now.
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Old August 9th, 2013, 04:43 AM   #11
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SA, US radio astronomy agencies extend their technology cooperation



A view of part of the KAT-7 array
Photo: SKA SA

BY: KEITH CAMPBELL

The agency responsible for South Africa’s hosting of and contribution to the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, SKA South Africa (SKA SA), and the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) on Tuesday signed an agreement to extend their cooperation for another five years. (South Africa will house the major part of Phase 1 of the SKA, with the rest being set up in Australia.)

SKA SA is also responsible for the country’s KAT-7 radio telescope array and the MeerKAT radio telescope programme. The NRAO is the US agency responsible for cooperation with the international SKA Organisation, which oversees the SKA programme. (The NRAO is a supporter, but for budgetary reasons not yet a member, of the SKA project.)

“Radio astronomy in both countries will benefit from sharing expertise resulting from recent expansions and upgrades to several radio astronomy facilities in the USA and the construction of the KAT-7 and the MeerKAT in South Africa,” cited SKA SA director Dr Bernie Fanaroff. “Scientists in the US are keen to collaborate with South Africa in the construction of the MeerKAT telescope as a precursor to the SKA, because they recognise that the MeerKAT will be a world leading and very exciting telescope in its own right.”

The new agreement allows both institutions to pool their high-level project expertise and resources concerning the development and implementation of software, latest technology receiving systems and data processing and archiving. The two agencies will also have joint workshops and exchange staff and students. They also intend to set up joint research and development activities.

“The collaboration agreement renews long-standing ties between SKA SA and NRAO and comes at a time when a major push is required in algorithms, software and computing to support the new and upgraded facilities in the US and SA,” affirmed SKA SA GM science computing and innovation Dr Jasper Horrell. “We are talking here of cutting edge work in high performance computing and algorithms that is of great significance for radio astronomy worldwide.”
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Old August 20th, 2013, 03:52 PM   #12
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There's an amazing high-resolution panorama of the South African Karoo site over here:

http://www.gigapan.com/gigapans/135410
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Old August 30th, 2013, 09:11 AM   #13
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Source: SKA South Africa on Facebook
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Old October 4th, 2013, 06:10 PM   #14
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Awesome to see the ground work to this taking shape - especially the run way!
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Old October 11th, 2013, 01:38 PM   #15
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3 October:



Source: Square Kilometre Array on Facebook
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Old February 8th, 2014, 02:35 AM   #16
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Bringing ‘backbone’ to MeerKAT array

February 6 2014 at 09:49am



SEARCHLIGHTS: An artist's impression of the 80 dishes of the MeerKAT radio telescope on site in the Karoo. Picture: Jeroen de Boer

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Pretoria - A local engineering manufacturing company has completed the world’s first back-up structure for the MeerKAT telescope, the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere, and a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

Tricom Structures, a manufacturer of telecommunication infrastructure in Waltloo, on Wednesday made public the structure that will hold the MeerKAT’s dish in place on it’s foundation.

A seven-dish MeerKAT precursor array, KAT-7, is already complete. It is the world’s first radio telescope array consisting of composite antenna structures.

Tricom’s 25 ton steel frame or “back bone”, consisting of 6 600 individual parts, will provide the structure on which the dish rests and will also hold in place the other parts of the dish array, including the receiving indexer and the subreflector.

The first frame took two months to complete and was designed by US and German engineers and three of Tricom’s own engineers.

The dish, held up by the frame, will fit on to a monopole, which rests on a foundation. Inside the monopole, a nine ton motor will allow the dish to turn 180º in 1.3 seconds.

By the end of the month, the disassembled structure will be taken to the SKA site, 80km outside Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, and the design will be finalised after it is assembled and tested.

“Ninety-nine percent of the frame fit and worked the first time,” said Tricom director Shaka Sebola.

Two abnormal freight trucks and three superlink trucks (a truck with two trailers) are necessary to transport one back-up structure.

It is expected it will take six trained installers six days to complete the installation.

Once the first back-up structure is approved, Tricom Structures will manufacture up to three structures a month until the required frames for the 64 dishes of 13.5m diameter each, to the value of R680-million, are completed.

The commissioning of MeerKAT will take place this year and next, with the array coming online for science operations in 2016.

Sebola said once the process had been streamlined, they would have the capacity to build two structures simultaneously.

“Africa has sophistication in manufacturing often assumed not to exist here. This (building the frames) is evidence that the capabilities exist,” Sebola said.

The SKA, which will be a radio telescope, will make pictures from radio waves instead of seeing light waves.

Thousands of antennas, spread over 3 000km, will work together as one virtual instrument, creating a radio telescope 50 times more powerful and 10 000 times faster than any other currently in existence.

It is expected the SKA project will be completed in 2024.



SKA CAPABILITIES

l The data collected by the SKA in 24 hours would take 2 million years to play back on an iPod.

l Enough raw data will be recorded every day to fill a total of 15 million 64GB iPods.

l The SKA central computer will have the processing power of about 100 million personal computers.

l The SKA will use enough optical fibre to wrap around the earth twice.

l The dishes of the SKA will produce 10 times the current global internet traffic.

l The SKA will be so sensitive that it will be able to detect an airport radar on a planet 50 light years away. - Pretoria News
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