A phased approach

Published in Physics World, 1 Oct 2012

Now that the Square Kilometre Array will be split between sites in Australia and southern Africa, Jon Cartwright reports that some technological trickery will be needed to make the world’s biggest telescope work

While the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) may have been taking all the headlines of late, there is some truth in claiming that the machine is already the “big science” of old. In just four years’ time, construction is slated to begin on a new project that will dwarf the Franco–Swiss particle accelerator by comparison. That project is the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) – the world’s biggest and most sensitive radio telescope.

Physically, SKA will be larger than the LHC, ultimately spreading over thousands of kilometres in Africa and Australasia. It will be made up of thousands of radio dishes and millions of radio antennas. To sort through the troves of data, it will need the fastest supercomputer on the planet. As Phil Diamond, who was appointed as the first director-general of SKA in September, points out: “It will be the largest science facility on Earth.” […]

For the rest of this article, please contact Jon Cartwright for a pdf.