July 14, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

Canada will invest $269 million in a square kilometer observatory

The National Research Council (NRC) announced today that Canada will invest $269 million in the Square Kilometer Array Observatory (SKAO) for eight years.

The Square Kilometer Array Observatory consists of two radio telescopes located at radio-quiet sites in South Africa and Australia. Each radio telescope is “respectively composed of hundreds of satellite dishes and thousands of antennas; “The SKAO telescopes will be the two most advanced radio telescopes on Earth.”

Artistic illustration of the set of square kilometers
Artist's illustration of the Square Kilometer Array. Credit: SKAO.

The news is not surprising since Canada has been cooperating in this effort for twenty years and last December Announced its intention to officially join the international effort as its tenth member.

Other members include the United Kingdom, where the organization is based, Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland.

Mitch Davies, President of the National Research Council of Canada, said: “The National Research Council of Canada's Herzberg Research Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics plays a leading role in Canada's international partnerships that support scientific discovery and innovation. in instrumentation for the astronomical community. Our membership in the Square Kilometer Array Observatory is the result of decades of collaboration and hard work. “Canada has contributed greatly to the definition and design of the new observatory since the 1990s. We are now prepared to play an equally critical role in its construction and scientific use.”

Prof. Phil Diamond, Director General of SKAO, added: “Canada has been a valued partner within the SKA project for over 20 years and I am delighted to welcome them as our newest member, expanding the Observatory's membership to South America. North. A little over a year ago, at the SKA-ngVLA meeting in Vancouver, I saw firsthand the enthusiasm among Canadian astronomers, particularly early-career researchers who will use SKA telescopes. “We can now look forward to further deepening the links between our colleagues there and the wider SKAO community as we move forward with construction and operations in the coming years.”

The Square Kilometer Array Observatory will be the largest radio astronomy observatory in the world when completed and, according to the NRC press release, will have “an impact comparable to that of the James Webb Space Telescope or the Hubble Space Telescope.” Construction of phase 1 began in June 2021 and is expected to be completed in 2029.

With the investment, the government said it would “create opportunities for Canadian industry and academic institutions to deliver key observatory systems and ensure Canadian astronomers have access to one of the most important facilities in the world.”

To that end, MDA Space today received a contract from the NRC under which they will “support the development, construction and integration” of SKAO.

MDA Space provided more details on what its contribution will say: “SKAO telescopes are made up of antenna arrays, including hundreds of medium and high frequency antennas in South Africa and more than 100,000 low frequency antennas in Australia. As part of its contract with the NRC, MDA Space will develop the project's Correlator Beamformer, a powerful data processing engine that will collect and process the large volumes of cosmic signals received by the telescopes. Using next-generation integrated computing technologies designed by MDA Space in collaboration with the NRC, signals will be processed thousands of times faster than average computer download speeds, giving scientists rapid access to vast amounts of new data and insights. about the universe. .”

Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA Space, said of the contract: “MDA Space is proud to contribute to this important international scientific effort that will listen and look to space to expand our understanding of the universe. “Projects of this size, scope and importance present a unique opportunity to showcase the expertise and innovation of Canadian astronomers, astrophysicists and industry, while driving new discoveries and advances in science and technology.”

Construction of phase 1 began in June 2021 and is expected to be completed in 2029.

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