an artist’s impression of the SKA dishes

Linnaeus Physics Colloquium: The Square Kilometre Array radio telescope

Welcome to Linnaeus Physics Colloquium, a series of seminars delivered by renowned researchers in physics.

Image: An artist’s impression of the SKA dishes. (c) SPDO/TDP/DRAO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions.

Title: The Square Kilometre Array radio telescope; a new cornerstone infrastructure for astrophysics and cosmology
Lecturer: Professor John Conway, Onsala Space Observatory, Chalmers University of Technology


The Square Kilometre Array project is the next huge step in centimetre and metre wave radio astronomy. SKA phase 1 will consist of two new radio telescope arrays: one a 197 element dish array covering centimeter wavelengths located in South Africa, the second being an aperture synthesis array of 130,000 dipoles covering metre wavelengths in Australia.

Amongst the SKA science goals are:

  1. Probing the era of galaxy formation via observations of the Epoch or Reionization via imaging redshifted atomic hydrogen.
  2. Constraining the Dark Energy equation of state via gravitational lensing and HI Baryonic Acoustic Oscillation observations.
  3. Tracing the evolution of galaxies versus cosmic time via observing both HI and continuum, so tracing galaxy dynamical masses, atomic gas content and star-formation rate.
  4. Tracing the evolution of magnetic fields in galaxies and large scale IGM structures using Faraday Rotation observations.
  5. Detecting and characterizing radio transients of all kinds, including the mysterious Fast Radio Bursts which can act as important cosmological probes.
  6. Tracing long wavelength gravitational waves via pulsar timing in order to measure both the stochastic gravitational wave background and discrete events.
  7. Using pulsar observations to test GR and probe the equation of state of matter at nuclear densities.
  8. Understand how pebbles accumulate into planets within nascent solar systems.
  9. Be on the look-out for new phenomena; including new classes of natural astrophysical object and artificial signals from extraterrestrial intelligence.  

Preliminary work on the above science conducted by numerous SKA precursor radio telescopes around the world will be described, together with the detailed plans for the development of the SKA itself, whose construction is planned to start during 2021.