Treaty negotiations for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope have begun, the Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Science, Karen Andrews, announced today.
“Treaty negotiations reflect a new chapter of engagement within the global project because they will solidify the rights and responsibilities of SKA member nations, paving the way for construction to begin in 2018,” Andrews said in a statement.
She said recent pre-negotiation meetings in Brussels, Belgium paved the way for treaty negotiations to begin.
The treaty negotiations are an opportunity for Australia to show its commitment and enthusiasm towards the SKA project, as the country will host the low frequency array for one of the largest radio telescopes in the world, she said.
In 2013, CSIRO, along with six other Australian organisations, was awarded a contract with the international SKA office to help technologically design the SKA telescope.
Australia has a couple of precursor telescopes - the Murchison Widefield Array, and CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder.
This month, the SKA Pathfinder made a breakthrough in finding a galaxy five billion light years away. It detected a change in radio waves from near the Ara constellation where the bright centre of the galaxy is. It found a radio emission travelling to Earth was imprinted with hydrogen gas, which absorbs some of the emission.
Opening up petabytes of data for astronomy research generated each year is now coming online for the two precursor telescopes, Andrews said.
She also pointed out that the SKA telescope is expected to produce five times the global internet traffic in 2015, meaning it needs supercomputing technology to support it.
A recent $2.8 million Australian Laureate Fellowship grant awarded to Swinburne University of Technology’s Professor Matthew Bailes will be used to develop supercomputing power for the SKA telescope.
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