back to article Square Kilometre Array Observatory construction commences

After thirty years of development, the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) announced Monday it has commenced construction of its radio telescopes in both South Africa and Australia. "After 18 months of global procurement and construction activities around the world, on 5 December 2022 the SKAO enters a new era by …

  1. Archivist

    What, no technical data?

    All I've learned is the antennae are like Xmas trees.

    1. Gob Smacked

      Re: What, no technical data?

      Have a look at the LOFAR project, one of the precursors of this

    2. fuzzie

      Re: What, no technical data?

      There's some more details in this article, esp some yummy bandwidth numbers

      > https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2022-12-05-blue-ska-thinking-construction-begins-on-square-kilometre-array/

      And MeerKAT, which SKA will further extend

      > https://www.sarao.ac.za/science/meerkat/about-meerkat/

      And more of an overview of the entire SKA

      > https://www.skao.int/en/explore/telescopes

      1. Chris Evans

        I wonder how they are getting the data off site?

        I couldn't see anything on the links you gave.

        There is going to be an awful lot of data to shift. Given the sites remoteness a satellite link would often be used but wouldn't that interfere with what they are trying to record?

        Thinking about it nearly all the data will be going off site so that would help.

        1. Solviva

          Re: I wonder how they are getting the data off site?

          It's fiber all the way - 100GbE out from the two sites (then carried over links to the various continents with data centres who ingest the data) so by todays standard nothing particularly special, by the time it's complete we'll probably be seeing 100 GbE ports on consumer devices :)

          1. Chris Evans

            Re: I wonder how they are getting the data off site?

            I did wonder at fibre but being so remote it looks like they'd have to lay 100+ Milometers of fibre!

    3. Refugee from Windows

      Re: What, no technical data?

      They look like log periodics to me, crossed ones at that. They don't need to be too directional as they are using interferotemetry, I did hear a talk about this project several years ago.

  2. ThatOne Silver badge
    Unhappy

    You can run but you can't hide

    > because both are nicely remote and therefore aren't polluted by stray radio signals.

    Too late, now stray radio signals will come raining down from the skies, from constellations of hundreds (soon thousands) of Internet-serving satellites. No need for local, ground-based pollution anymore...

    There is little chance a faint signal from "the very first stars in the universe" or some such will be audible over the constant screaming of those orbital loudspeakers.

    1. Gob Smacked

      Re: You can run but you can't hide

      I certainly does not help to have the close heavens full of emitters, but the EM spectrum can be easily filtered to get rid of most of the littered bands. Would be nice to not have these gaps in the spectrum, but the full spectrum is luckily orders of magnitude wider than our human based sh*t beaming down

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: You can run but you can't hide

        > the EM spectrum can be easily filtered

        I'm not so sure about "easily". When you're at those incredible levels of sensitivity, even the slightest harmonics and other induced parasites sound like a pneumatic drill running while you try to listen to a barely perceptible sound. Also, they don't necessarily listen to just a couple specific frequencies, they need the whole image to be able to see what's out there.

        There is a reason why they go through such pains to build those things in the boonies instead on simply relying on some filters to clean out the noise.

        1. Gob Smacked

          Re: You can run but you can't hide

          All true, I was a bit generic. There are lots more interference issues, but the design of the facilities over great distances and hundreds resp. 10s of thousands of independent sensors mean that most will be integrated back to (close to) zero, leaving the real signal available for science.

          The same technological advancements that enable rolling out large setups in space, work here on earth to deal with that. I don't say it's not an added problem to deal with, but science dealing with new problems is just what delivers us more progress. It's not a zero sum deal. Science is great...

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: You can run but you can't hide

            > science dealing with new problems is just what delivers us more progress.

            Science doesn't really need those new, artificial problems. Science is already facing the biggest challenge of all, understanding our universe, and anything making this more difficult is definitely not a welcome challenge, just a pain in the neck.

            Else we could also chop off the hands of scientists or gouge their eyes out. Those "problems" might "deliver us more progress" too.

            1. Gob Smacked
              Coat

              Re: You can run but you can't hide

              Yeah, I give up. Those are indeed very convincing arguments...

    2. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

      Re: You can run but you can't hide

      It's a little more nuanced than "SKA will be blinded" but, for anyone interested, here is a link to the SKA document addressing the issue.

      1. Timbo

        Re: You can run but you can't hide

        The SKAO quoted:

        "Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX (which is currently deploying the Starlink mega-constellation), said recently in a public statement that:

        “… Starlink won’t be seen by anyone unless looking very carefully and will have ~0% impact on advancements in astronomy.”

        The SKAO study shows that, for radio telescopes in general and for SKA in particular, this is not the case and specific mitigation actions will be needed to minimize this impact."

        So, once again, some selfish, self-opinionated, rich guy thinks only of himself and doesn't do his homework to understand the impact his business(es) will have on specific communities, in this case the scientific "world".

        1. Gob Smacked

          Re: You can run but you can't hide

          > So, once again, some selfish, self-opinionated, rich guy thinks only of himself

          > and doesn't do his homework to understand the impact his business(es) will have

          > on specific communities, in this case the scientific "world".

          True, but you will probably at one time be a happy, maybe unknowing, user of the selfishly created Starlink...

          It always cuts more ways

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a link to the SKA document/ www.skatelescope.org

        That's an interesting domain name. What might a Skate Le Scope be? :-)

        1. ThatOne Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: a link to the SKA document/ www.skatelescope.org

          Nah, you got it wrong, it's a telescope for listening to Ska.

    3. eldakka
      Alert

      Re: You can run but you can't hide

      > Too late, now stray radio signals will come raining down from the skies, from constellations of hundreds (soon thousands) of Internet-serving satellites. No need for local, ground-based pollution anymore...

      It'll be tens of thousands, Starlink alone has license for something like 30,000 satellites, and various competitors between them are planning a similar number.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: You can run but you can't hide

        Yeah well, there will be only a small part of those visible from the SKAO at any time.

    4. Solviva

      Re: You can run but you can't hide

      It's a phased array so the signal from one satellite arriving at one antenna will not correlate with the same signal arriving at a different antenna (unless they set the delays such that they are focusing on said satellite). It does increase the noise though, so SNR suffers. Fortunately with radio astronomy, for most objects you can simply spend more time on the object to get more signal.

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Aliens

    Imagine listening to alien conversation a one light year away:

    [Alien1] No you talk to them people!

    [Alien2] I am shy, you talk to them

    [Alien1] I put a kettle on, you talk!

    [Alien2] You know I am socially awkward do you? Do you want me to leave bad impression?

    [Alien1] Nah mate, you good. Just talk to them oh key?

    [Alien2] Now you are being awkward. Are you sure this is a tea?

    [Alien1] What are you a narc now?

    [Alien2] I bet you would like some no? You filthy little alien.

    [Alien1] Don't talk to me like that, you make me blush!

    [Alien2] Okay, you know what? Get on your knees!

    [Alien1] * squeaky noises *

    [Alien2] * squeaky noises *

  4. Roger Kynaston

    Huge amounts of data

    I presume they aren't putting it in s3 buckets. It is a cool project though.

  5. VoiceOfTruth

    Indigenous land

    -> The project's site in Australia will sit on Indigenous land

    All of Australia is "Indigenous land". "Indigenous land" today means land that the colonialists have not yet stolen.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Indigenous land

      All land everywhere is indigenous land that colonists have stolen. Down with Norman / Saxon / Celtic oppressors

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Re: Indigenous land

        You forgot the Romans.

        Coming over here, imposing peace!

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Indigenous land

          At least they left.

          1. that one in the corner Silver badge

            Re: Indigenous land

            Yeah, but all the litter they left behind, we're still digging it up now!

      2. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

        Re: Indigenous land

        It took more than two hundred years for Australia's highest court to remind us officially that there's more than one sovereignty in this land. Think about that for a minute. That's a fact that some people have yet to assimilate, and looks like taking a long time yet to reconcile. Education is hard work.

        Unstolen native title endures (Mabo). Temporary alienation of native title is reversible (Wik). That's the law of the land.

        It's easy to be dismissive or in denial, but it's real, and it matters.

        Cheers from Yawuru country!

        1. EH

          Re: Indigenous land

          It's Mabo....it's the vibe

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Indigenous land

      The "good news" here is that radio telescopes have a fairly light ecological footprint, unlike uranium mining, for example. The traditional owners of the land should be able to continue to use it.

    3. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Indigenous land

      To be fair, that sentence clarified the point later, with "with native title holders". And in some cases, a more accurate statement might be "land that the colonialists had stolen, but have now returned to indigenous organizations (with various degrees of enthusiasm/reluctance).

      How native titles are managed in Australia I do not know, but if you want to find out about the NZ situation there is exhaustive information at https://maorilandcourt.govt.nz/. I found it a quite interesting diversion several months ago, but do not expect to find the information useful anytime soon.

    4. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

      Re: Indigenous land

      It belongs to them. Let's give it baa-aaack.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What’s that Skip?

    Aliens?

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: What’s that Skip?

      The aliens have fallen into the water hole?

      Crikey, how'd that happen, it's only 18 to 21 cm in length!

  7. User McUser
    Coat

    Karoo will house the SKA-Mid detecting frequencies between 350 megahertz and 15.4 gigahertz, while in Australia the SKA-Low will pick up frequencies between 50 and 350 megahertz.

    So those would be the SKA bands then, eh?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      SKA bands

      Now now. Jokes like that are just Bad Manners.

      1. Majikthise

        This thread...

        ... can only end in Madness.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: This thread...

          It's a bit Specials

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Happy

    Blue Peter

    I cannot help feeling that the picture of the mobile antenna looks like something the presenters on the BBC children's program 'Blue Peter' could have made out of wire coat hangers, but I suspect that it is a bit more technical than that. Oh well, maybe they'll show kids how to make their own SKA to go with their Tracey Island.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UzWkEHOdZA

    Or for a more leisurely approach:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM_iV7R8rTM

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Blue Peter

      Same thing if you have UK budgets https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Low_Frequency_Synthesis_Telescope

  9. Sleep deprived

    Most have sent delegations to [...] to celebrate [...] ceremonies

    After that, the plebs get told air travel is a major source of GHG and they should skip non-essential trips...

  10. Hazmoid

    Proud West Aussie here

    I was scoping out Seek and there were jobs going for data managers and big data engineers on this project a few years ago. The base station for the data management is at Curtin university, quite close to where I live. One of the Professors in charge of this project was a Joey leader at our Scout group so as you can imagine, we had some fun STEM activities :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Proud West Aussie here

      Interesting, but Dockers or Eagles?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Proud West Aussie here

        > Dockers or Eagles

        You're making that up. If they were real, and Australian, they would end in 'o'

      2. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

        Re: Proud West Aussie here

        Suns, maybe?

  11. Sceptic Tank Silver badge
    FAIL

    Local Business Forums

    Before pointing their telescopes anywhere, maybe these scientists want to point their browsers to Google and check out the Construction Mafia in South Africa. They will demand that astronomers from the local community be used to build those telescopes.

    1. Solviva

      Re: Local Business Forums

      Does said Construction Mafia demand teachers build their schools? Taxi drivers build their taxis?

  12. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

    Cue The Church

    Wish I knew what you were looking for

    Might have known what you would find

    And it's something quite peculiar

    Something that's shimmering and white

    It leads you here despite your destination

    Under the Milky Way tonight

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