Canada announces intention to become full member of international SKAO radio astronomy project

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

SKA at daytime

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has announced that Canada will proceed to full membership of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO).

This builds upon a 2-year cooperation agreement with the SKAO signed by the NRC in November 2021, which allows Canada's scientific and engineering communities to continue participation in the project.

Full membership is expected to provide Canadian astronomers a 6 per cent use-share of the observatory, access to a next-generation radio astronomy facility, and support the establishment of a domestic regional centre. This centre will provide direct connections to data collected with the telescope as well as science support to enable ground-breaking discoveries.

The SKAO is a next-generation radio astronomy observatory, bringing together nations from around the world to build and operate cutting-edge radio telescopes.  SKAO will operate 2 telescopes on 2 continents (Australia and South Africa), with headquarters in the United Kingdom. The initial phase of the SKAO consists of 197 radio dishes located in South Africa and 131,072 antennas located in Australia. Construction on Phase 1 began in June 2021 and is expected to be completed by 2029.

The SKAO will be used to make exciting new discoveries and help us understand fundamental questions such as: “how did the first stars form?”, “what is the nature of dark matter?”; “where do gravitational waves come from?”; “how do galaxies form?”; “what can we learn about the life cycle of stars?”; and, “how do planets form?”

The Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) will represent Canada in the governance of the SKAO and will work with domestic and international partners to deliver key observatory systems. The Centre is a highly regarded research centre with the longstanding role of providing radio telescopes and components to international observatories.

 “Joining the SKA offers astronomers at the Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics and across Canada the chance to contribute to this incredible experiment and continue Canada’s proud history in radio astronomy" says Will Percival, Director of the WCA “We are looking forward to helping to make the scientific discoveries that will be enabled by this project”.

The image above is a composite image of the SKA telescopes, blending real hardware already on site with artist's impressions. From left: An artist's impression of the future SKA-Mid dishes blend into the existing precursor MeerKAT telescope dishes in South Africa. From right: An artist's impression of the future SKA-Low stations blends into the existing AAVS2.0 prototype station in Western Australia.

Image source: Square Kilometre Array Observatory  media kit

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