Board formed to take world's largest telescope to next stage of development

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The world’s biggest radio telescope project has taken a step closer to reality with the establishment of a founding board by nine national governmental and research organisations.

After signing a Letter of Intent in Rome on Saturday, the new board has announced that the SKA Project Office (SPO) will be based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester in the UK. The move is planned for next January.

The SKA is a €1.5 billion global project to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The team says the SKA will be able to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the universe.

"The move to Jodrell Bank Observatory comes at a crucial time as the project grows from a concept to an international mega-science project," says Professor Richard Schilizzi, director of the SKA. "The new location and facilities will support the significant expansion that is planned."

  The SKA, as its name implies, will have a massive collecting area. But rather than consisting of a single radio dish, it will be made up of thousands of smaller ones. It will have 50 times the sensitivity and 10,000 times the survey speed of the best telescopes in operation today.

It should help answer questions on the birth of planets and galaxies, reveal more information about dark matter and help in the search for extraterrestrial life.

A location for the SKA itself won't be finalized until next year, but it will be in either Australia/New Zealand or Southern Africa.