SKA in a Nutshell

The SKA will be the next generation radio telescope array, with a transformational impact. It was originally conceived as a “Hydrogen Pulsar” telescope, but it will provide a sea change in most areas of astronomy. Early science is scheduled to begin in 2020. The UK will contribute £100 million, representing about 18-19% of the project, to the construction of the instrument.

Two major decisions were taken during 2015:

  1. The Global Headquarters for the project will be based at Jodrell Bank in the UK
  2. The SKA Board approved the rebaselining recommendation proposed to fit within the €650m cost cap and maximise the science goals of the SKA Phase 1.

The SKA is split over two sites (South Africa and Australia), and is two telescopes (low frequency and mid-frequency). The phase 1 construction plan from 2018-2023 is:

  • SKA-Low: about 130,000 low-frequency dipoles in Australia
  • SKA-Mid: about 190 15-metre dishes including the MeerKAT array in South Africa

The current baseline design is now being updated post-rebaselining but you can view the original. The phase 2 plans for SKA (2023-2030, currently known as SKA2) will increase the number of dipoles / dishes by an order of magnitude.

The figures below compare SKA to other projects in the raw point source sensitivity (expressed as effective area divided by system temperature) and survey speed:

  • Point source sensitivity
  • Survey speed

For more detailed information on the design specification for the SKA Phase 1, view the SKA for Scientists webpage. These are webpages intended for the use of professional astronomers and they include technical details, definitions and quick links to relevant pages.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000