12 M€ for Netherlands contribution to design of the Square Kilometre Array

A consortium consisting of ASTRON and the Universities of Amsterdam, Groningen, Leiden and Nijmegen has been awarded 12M€ for their participation in the design of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The SKA will be the world's largest and most powerful radio telescope. Construction will start in 2018 in Australia and South Africa and the first results are expected in 2020. The announcement of funding from the second call of the Netherlands Roadmap for Large-Scale Research Facilities was made by Sander Dekker, the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science, and Jos Engelen, chair of the Governing Board of Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) at an event in Leiden.

Published by the editorial team, 1 July 2014

The SKA Project is an international effort to design and build a telescope composed of hundreds of dishes and hundreds of thousands of antennas connected by optical fibre to massive data processing facilities. It will address questions that only observations of the Universe at radio wavelengths can answer. The SKA will produce the first images from a time when the first stars and galaxies were forming. It will also use pulsars to detect gravitational radiation and test Einstein's theory of General Relativity. The extreme flexibility of the SKA will also allow it to detect and identify new transient phenomena, thereby opening a new window on the variable Universe. Participation in the Square Kilometre Array is one of the top priorities of Dutch astronomy for this decade.

Eleven consortia have been selected to design elements of the telescope. ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy is leading the international consortia responsible for the design of the Low Frequency Aperture Array (LFAA) and Mid Frequency Aperture Array (MFFA) - two types of smart antenna that will operate at lower frequencies than the more conventional dishes. The Roadmap funding will also be used to develop the software and hardware required to process the vast amounts of data that will come from the telescope. Astronomers from the NL Universities, collaborating in the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA) and ASTRON will be closely involved in these activities, in particular to ensure that the telescope is ready to address the most urgent topics to be studied by Dutch astronomers.

The Netherlands has played a major role in radio astronomy over the past 70 years. Experience gained in the construction and operation of the Dwingeloo 25m dish (1956), the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (1970) and most recently the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR, 2010) has equipped both engineers and astronomers to play a leading role in the design of the SKA. Technology development will be carried out in close collaboration with industry. A major challenge facing the consortia is to prepare for the construction phase, which will be on a scale that makes industry involvement essential.

For more information, please contact:

ASTRON: Dr. Michiel van Haarlem, Head of NL SKA Office, phone: +31 651 433 478 (mobile), email: haarlem@astron.nl or Truus van den Brink, Office Manager of NL SKA Office, phone: +31 521 595 144 (office) or +31 651 472 491 (mobile), email: brink@astron.nl.

University of Amsterdam: Prof.dr. Ralph Wijers, phone: +31 20 525 7488 (office). Email: Ralph.Wijers@uva.nl.

University of Groningen: Prof.dr. Leon Koopmans,  phone: +31 50 3636519 (office). Email: koopmans@astro.rug.nl.

Leiden University: Prof. dr. Huub Röttgering, phone: +31 71 527 5851 (office). Email: rottgering@strw.leidenuniv.nl.

Radboud University: Prof. dr. Heino Falcke, phone: +31 24 365 2020 (office). Email: H.Falcke@astro.ru.nl.


Artist rendition of an SKA LFAA (Low Frequency Aperture Array) station. 250,000 of these antennas will survey the radio sky at frequencies between 50 and 350 MHz. Dish telescopes operating at higher frequencies can be seen in the background.




More information about the SKA Project is available at: www.skatelescope.org

More information about ASTRON and its telescopes, including LOFAR is available at: www.astron.nl

ASTRON is part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)

About the SKA

The SKA project is an international effort to build the world's largest radio telescope, with a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area. The scale of the SKA represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research & development towards building and delivering a radio telescope, and will deliver a correspondingly transformational increase in science capability when operational. Deploying thousands of radio telescopes, in three unique configurations, which will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and survey the entire sky thousands of times faster than any system currently in existence. The SKA telescope will be co-located in Africa and in Australia. It will have an unprecedented scope in observations, exceeding the image resolution quality of the Hubble Space Telescope by a factor of 50 times, whilst also having the ability to image huge areas of sky in parallel. With a range of other large telescopes in the optical and infrared being built and launched into space over the coming decades, the SKA will perfectly augment, complement and lead the way in scientific discovery. The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester, UK, was established in December 2011 in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and to centralise the leadership of the project. Eleven countries are currently members of the SKA Organisation - Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India (associate member), Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.


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