SKA will probably be mentioned a lot in the web log as the months go by. It is a big project, and sits firmly in the scientific vision of most groups undertaking radio astronomy. But what is it?
SKA, as the name suggests, is an array of antennas with a total collecting area of 1 square-kilometre. 1 square kilometre is 1 million square metres, so this is big compared to the 4800 m2 of KAIRA, and it will even outstrip LOFAR and EISCAT.
The antennas will be grouped into stations, with a large number of these stations clustered together into a 'core' (in the same way that LOFAR has a 'core' of stations that are close together).
of the SKA might look. (Image: SPDO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions)
These core stations will cover an area some 5 km or so. The furthest stations will be scattered out to distances of several thousand kilometres from the core.
This requirement for a large area, as well as a desire to build it in the southern hemisphere (for astronomical reasons) and a need to keep away from interfering radio signals has limited the possible locations where the SKA can be built. Currently there are two candidate sites: one is Australia and one in South Africa. The decision on this will be made in the next few years.
Tomorrow we'll have a closer look at the SKA antenna systems themselves.