From 31 October to 4 November His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima are on a State visit to Australia. The State visit to Australia was devoted to confirming and expanding the historic and broad bilateral ties the Netherlands has with Australia. On 1 November the king and queen visited the Curtin University for an explanation of the Square Kilometre Array.

Published by the editorial team, 2 November 2016

The common history goes back to the early 17th century. In 1606 the Dutch VOC captain Willem Janszoon was the first European to set foot on Australian soil. Ten years later, Dutchman Dirk Hartog took his VOC ship ‘De Eendracht’ to anchor off the west coast of Australia. This will be celebrated in 2016 during the Dirk Hartog year.

Although the Netherlands and Australia have a rich history together, the visit is also an occasion to look to the future. An example is the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project. In this progressive scientific project to build the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world, astronomers and engineers from the Netherlands and Australia are again working together closely.

The Square Kilometre Array will be built on two continents, namely South-Africa and Western Australia. In Western Australia, SKA-LOW will be built in the very remote and radio-quiet Murchison area, northeast of Perth. SKA-LOW will consist of around 130,000 small antennas in combination with an advanced fibre optic network and a supercomputer. In addition, there will be big data facilities for the processing of the huge amounts of data that will be produced by the antennas. SKA LOW builds upon technology developed for the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) telescope in the Netherlands and Europe, built and developed by ASTRON.

ASTRON is leading the international consortium designing the SKA-LOW antenna stations. Curtin University is a major partner and leading the deployment of a prototype station AAVS1. Therefore, the king and queen visited Curtin University, where they received an explanation of the project and the cooperation between the Netherlands and Australia. They saw, among others, a line up with 16 prototype antennas – which will be incorporated into a prototype station on the SKA site in the coming months. For both countries a good opportunity to show off their role in the SKA project.

Do you want to know more about the SKA project? Check out the SKA website.

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