UK takes leading role in project to create the world's biggest-ever radio telescope

12/03/2019

UK takes leading role in project to create the world's biggest-ever radio telescope

A treaty signing today has confirmed the UK as the home for the new international organisation which will deliver the world’s biggest-ever radio telescope – the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The UK is one of the seven founding countries involved in the SKA project to improve our understanding of the evolution of the Universe and help us to map hundreds of millions of galaxies, and today’s treaty signing in Rome establishes the siting of the international nerve centre of this project at Jodrell Bank in the UK.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Science has no borders and the UK’s hosting of the global HQ of this international project demonstrates our leading position and influence in scientific collaboration and exploration.

“For generations Jodrell Bank has inspired young people and inspired children to take an interest in science and will now inspire the next generation of scientists.

“This Government, through our modern Industrial Strategy is giving the biggest boost to research and development funding in UK history to ensure we inspire our young people.”

Radio astronomy allows us to study the celestial objects that give off radio waves. With radio astronomy, we study astronomical phenomena that are often invisible or hidden in other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. There is no other way to ‘see’ these objects.

The SKA will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world, stretching technology to its limits and engineers, technologists and astronomers supported by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) will be at the forefront of making this project a success. Scientists and engineers at UK universities and institutions are involved right across the design of the SKA including from the Universities of Manchester, Oxford and Cambridge and from STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: "The Square Kilometre Array will help answer fundamental questions about the nature

and the history of the Universe. In addition to providing insights into the wonders of the Universe, the SKA, through its development of improved methods to handle massive amounts of astronomical data, will drive advances in computing, information technology and big data processing.

"Today's signing reinforces the UK's position in international astronomy, and UKRI's commitment to maintaining and strengthening relationships with researchers across the globe."

Thanks to the investment of over £100 million that the UK has made in to the SKA project British scientists and industry partners have been helping to develop the central computing and data handling systems which will read the huge volume of new data that will be produced by the project, meaning this project could lead to faster smartphones and increased internet speeds across the UK in the future.

For more information visit the STFC website.


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