UK visit to Australia's Square Kilometre Array site

Media release

1 March 2014

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts today visited Australia's site for the planned Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.

The SKA is a global science project aimed at building the world's largest radio telescope. Comprising hundreds of thousands of radio antennas in Australia and South Africa, the SKA will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail, thousands of times faster than any system currently in existence.

Australia was chosen, along with South Africa, to host the multibillion dollar global observatory after the then Education, Science and Training Minister Julie Bishop committed to positioning Australia as the preferred site for the project under the Howard Government.

"The Square Kilometre Array is a world-class science infrastructure project which will make giant leaps forward in both technology development and in astronomy," Ms Bishop said.

"Australia and the United Kingdom, together with the other SKA partner countries, are working very hard to design and develop the telescope and the two SKA precursor telescopes already in place in Western Australia are already leading the way.

"The work of Australian industry to design, build and operate the SKA telescope will generate jobs and business opportunities across the country, and especially in Western Australia where it is based."

With image resolution exceeding that of the Hubble Space Telescope by a factor of 50 times, the SKA is expected to solve some fundamental questions about the universe, such as how it began.

The UK is a leading consortium member and plays host to the SKA headquarters in Manchester.

"Australia and the UK have a rich history of collaboration on major science projects and we value the relationship between our countries on this important project," Mr Willetts said.

"This is a very exciting time for the Square Kilometre Array telescope and it is obvious when you visit the site that Australia shares my strong sense of anticipation and expectation for the project. Things are really starting to happen here.

"Having recently opened the SKA headquarters in Manchester and visited the South African SKA site, I now have a real sense of a truly international project coming together with the aim of furthering human knowledge," Mr Willetts said.

While at the site, the Ministers toured two SKA precursor telescopes, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) which began operating last year and the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP), commissioned by the Howard Government, which is due to begin official operations as part of the SKA this year.

Further information on Australia and the SKA www.ska.gov.au

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