Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has helped launch construction of the SKA Observatory’s SKA-Low telescope at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory on Wajarri Country in Mid West Western Australia.
The global SKA Observatory (SKAO) announced the start of on-site construction activity for both their telescopes today, SKA-Low in Australia and SKA-Mid in South Africa.
The SKA-Low telescope will be the first mega-science project co-hosted in Australia and will explore the Universe in more detail than ever before, transforming our understanding of the cosmos and benefitting society through global collaboration and innovation.
“The SKA project is keeping Australian expertise at the cutting edge of discovery, a shining example of the power of collaboration to drive innovation, especially the generous collaboration of the Wajarri Yamaji, Traditional Owners and native title holders of the telescope site, who allow us to leave our footprints side by side with theirs,” Dr Marshall said.
“The progress of the SKA project over the past two decades has allowed us to see further into the Universe than ever before. It has driven innovation and inspired generations both new and old through the development of technologies to solve great challenges facing our planet by better understanding the Universe.
“The start of SKA-Low construction on site is the culmination of many dreams, both within CSIRO and the global astronomy community, and the next step on this journey of discovery. CSIRO is honoured to be a key partner with the SKAO into a better future enabled by science.”
CSIRO is the SKAO’s operations partner for the SKA-Low telescope in Australia and holds multiple contracts for SKA-Low construction activities.
The SKA-Low telescope will spread across 74km end-to-end at the WA observatory site alongside existing instruments including CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope.
SKA-Low Telescope Director Dr Sarah Pearce said the SKAO was pleased to have established operations and engineering centres in Australia, where SKAO works closely with CSIRO as operations partner.
“CSIRO has been involved in the SKA project since its inception and have been leaders in radio astronomy science and technology for more than 70 years,” Dr Pearce said.
“The SKA Observatory welcomes our partnership with CSIRO to build and operate the SKA-Low telescope in Western Australia.”
The commencement of construction today follows the finalisation of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with the Wajarri Yamaji in early November.
Through its management of the ILUA, CSIRO is partnering with the Wajarri Yamaji community to ensure cultural heritage is protected during construction activities on site and over the SKA-Low telescope’s 50-year operating life.
CSIRO team members have walked shoulder-to-shoulder with Wajarri heritage guides to survey telescope construction areas, ensuring heritage sites are documented and will be protected.