Big day for China role in mega telescope
The first fully assembled dish for the Square Kilometer Array radio telescope was unveiled yesterday in Shijiazhuang, north China’s Hebei Province.
The SKA, an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope using arrays in Australia and South Africa, is not a single telescope, but a collection of telescopes or instruments, called an array, to be spread over long distances.
After completion, the SKA will detect faint radio waves from deep space with a sensitivity about 50 times greater than that of NASA’s Hubble telescope. Individual radio telescopes will be linked to create a total collecting area of about 1 million square meters.
The 15-meter diameter dish unveiled yesterday is one of two final prototypes that will be tested ahead of production of an early array.
It is the first time China has played a leading role in the development of the SKA dish, showing that the country has made technological breakthroughs in radio telescopes, said Hao Jinxin, deputy head of the National Astronomical Observatories under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
“This is a major achievement by all the partners involved,” said Philip Diamond, director-general of the SKA Organization, which is overseeing the project. “Our Chinese partners have demonstrated that they have the technology and capability to construct a telescope with the specifications that the SKA requires,” added SKA official Mark Harman.
A second dish is due to be shipped to South Africa and assembled there to conduct real observations for the first time in the next few months.
Supported by 10 member countries including China, Australia, South Africa and Britain, the SKA has attracted scientists from about 20 countries.