A massive radio telescope, dubbed the Square Kilometer Array, has been in planning for nearly 30 years. The program quickly approaches fruition thanks to a significant partnership between six nations. Don’t think of this radio telescope like an observatory on a mountain. Instead, it consists of 130,000 wire antennas erected in Western Australia and 130 dishes in South Africa (added onto an existing 64-dish array).
A one square kilometer collecting area makes this the world’s largest radio telescope. Astronomers hypothesize that, with an array so vast, we will see our adjacent universes’ first stars and galaxies, as well as listen for signs of extraterrestrial civilizations.
A six-nation joint effort leads this project: the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal.
Project planners must overcome more obstacles to make this program shovel-ready. The six participating nations ratified the treaty in December 2020. However, due to Australian lockdown restrictions, planners have been forced to postpone digging until the end of 2021. On the other hand, the South African arm of the project is months ahead of that schedule.
Although the United States has not entered the treaty, the US intends to collaborate after specific projects close and funds become available. The US plans to finish its efforts on the Next Generation Very Large Array. Also, United States scientists are currently in the middle of a decade-long survey of astrophysics. All indications point to a formidable partnership between the six involved nations and the United States when resources become available.
A mammoth new radio telescope project built by six nations promises to expand astronomical research. Scientists hope to get first-glimpses of stars and planets unexplored and, perhaps, evidence of life out there in the universe.