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Australia affirms role in world's largest telescope

29 September 2020

Joint media release with the Western Australian Minister for Science, the Hon Dave Kelly MLA

Australia is another step closer to helping create the world’s largest radio telescope, which will allow further exploration of the universe while creating jobs in Western Australia and growing the economy. 

Australia has today ratified the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory Convention. 

Under the Convention, WA will host 130,000 antennas and South Africa the 200 dishes – together making the telescope that will allow astronomers to view the cosmos in more detail than ever before.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said over the next decade the project is expected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity in Australia.

“Australians should be proud that our country will be a host of the world’s largest scientific instrument, which will help shape our understanding of the beginning of the universe,” Minister Andrews said.

“Not only does the project further cement Australia’s reputation for science and research and boost our international standing in radio astronomy, it also has the potential to create 200 construction jobs in regional Western Australia and Perth and a further 100 permanent positions. 

“The SKA will also boost Australia’s advanced manufacturing sector, enabling local businesses to partner with international counterparts and design and build high tech telescope components. 

“Additionally, Australia will play a leading role in developing new digital capabilities to process the unprecedented volumes of data produced by the SKA, with the potential for these processes to support other manufacturers.”

Western Australian Minister for Science, the Hon Dave Kelly MLA said today marks an important milestone for the SKA Observatory Convention and for Western Australia’s role in co-hosting one of the biggest science projects in human history.

“Australia’s ratification of the convention enhances Western Australia’s position as global hub for radio astronomy, and will offer significant economic and job creating opportunities for the state,” Mr Kelly said.

“Just over a decade ago we had a handful of astronomers working in WA and now there are around 135 astronomers, 25 engineers and 25 data scientists working in WA on the SKA project and in astronomical research, with more to come.” 

Australia is the fourth country to ratify the SKA Observatory Convention. The Australian component of the SKA, SKA-Low, will be the world’s most sensitive low frequency radio telescope. Hosted at CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, it will initially comprise more than 130,000 antennas spread over 65 kilometres in remote Western Australia. 

The project is expected to move into the construction phase in mid-2021. 

More information about the Square Kilometre Array project in Australia is available at www.industry.gov.au/ska 

Media contact:

Minister Andrews' office 02 6277 7070