The Australian ambassador, His Excellency Dr Brett Mason, visited ASTRON on Tuesday 19 December 2017. ASTRON’s Director General, Prof. Carole Jackson, and her colleagues were pleased to update the ambassador on progress with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the international project to build the world’s largest radio telescope to be located in Western Australia and the Karoo region in South Africa. ASTRON leads the international team developing the antennas and receiver system for the low frequency part of the SKA (SKA-Low) and works in partnership with CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science in Sydney to develop the complex digital correlation systems for this revolutionary telescope.

Published by the editorial team, 20 December 2017

During the visit Dr Mason was briefed on the exciting progress with the Aperture Array Verification System (AAVS1) to prove SKA-Low technologies built in the Australian outback. In November 2017 the international team successfully installed one trial SKA-Low station of 256 log-dipole antennas at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO), located in Western Australia.

Dr Mason enjoyed a tour through the ASTRON headquarters including the control room for LOFAR - the world’s biggest connected radio telescope – and laboratories where a number of SKA technologies (see page 8) are under final development. The ambassador also visited the JIVE correlator room, where JIVE Director Prof. Huib Jan van Langevelde explained how JIVE’s expertise will be utilised in the SKA era.

   

   

The ambassador is well aware of the long and very productive collaboration between ASTRON and its partner institutions in Australia. This reflects a long history of personnel and technology interchange between the two countries which continues today, and, is reflected in Dr Mason’s comment “I can’t imagine the SKA project in Australia progressing as well as it might without full Dutch collaboration and partnership." The new International Treaty Organisation is expected to be ratified in 2018 to allow the SKA to start construction.

ASTRON’s Director General Prof. Carole Jackson not only agrees but adds: “Indeed, the Netherlands in SKA would be a true reflection of the expertise here and build on the deep history of the two countries. Moreover we are confident as to the commercial and wider societal benefits which will flow from our developments. Astronomy demands smart and forefront engineering to explore the deep Universe: fortunately this often finds its way into more practical applications on Earth too.”

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