The SKA Board of Directors, which includes the participation of the Ministry for Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda (Mitma), through the director of the National Astronomical Observatory, reporting to the National Geographic Institute (IGN), at its meeting on 24 and 25 June gave the go-ahead for the construction of what is set to be the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
This marks the culmination of 30 years of technical design work and scientific preparation carried out by a large international consortium in which Mitma, through the National Astronomical Observatory and the Yebes Observatory, both reporting to the IGN, has been present since the outset.
Two venues and a 1.5 billion euro budget
The new observatory, specialising in longwave, from centimetre to metric, will have two sites for astronomical observation: one in South Africa, and one in Western Australia, which will specialise in different wavelength ranges. These are remote sites with high atmospheric quality and low radio pollution.
The budget to construct this colossal observatory totals 1.5 billion euros. The project is managed by the SKA Observatory (SKAO), an intergovernmental organisation governed by an international treaty that has already been ratified by Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and the UK, where the headquarters are located. Both Spain and France are in the process of joining the treaty. In addition, there are more participants in the project, such as Canada, Germany, India, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland.
Specifically, Spanish participation in the SKA project is being coordinated and managed by the Ministry for Science and Innovation. For its part, in addition to the IGN, the Spanish National Research Council and several universities are involved in the design and scientific preparation work. In addition, several Spanish companies will be awarded key high technological value contracts to participate in the construction works.
The technological challenges associated with the construction of SKA include the mass production of radio frequency systems, the implementation of long distance and high capacity optical networks and their associated synchronism, supercomputing and mass data storage, energy efficiency, new processing technologies and many more.
When the observatory is built by 2030, it is expected to bring about a revolution in many fields of astronomical research, from the formation of stars and galaxies to the study of the mysterious dark energy that dominates the composition of the universe.