Artistic impression of the SKA.

Image credit: SKA organization.

The SKA will become the largest and by far the most sensitive radio telescope in the world for decades to come. Because of its combination of technical innovation, unprecedented versatility and sensitivity, the SKA will be one of the cornerstones of the global effort to understand the universe, its laws, and its origin and evolution. Currently, international, and particularly European, efforts are underway to build this innovative telescope, which is listed as a „Landmark Project“ on the European Union’s latest ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) list. Furthermore, the SKA was presented by the German astronomical community in the last „Denkschrift“ as the highest priority project after the ESO telescopes. This is in line with the priority list of the European astronomers who had identified SKA as one of the top priority future large observatories in the ASTRONET „Infrastructure Roadmap“. The project is about to enter the actual construction phase, after the SKA Observatory started to operate as a treaty organisation in January 2021.

SKA will be one of the „great observatories“, joining the ranks of ALMA, JWST, ELT, ATHENA and CTA. Together with neutrino and gravitational wave sectors, it will be the indispensable window to the non-thermal universe, without which the fundamental properties of the universe, its evolution, or its objects and laws of nature cannot be understood.

It will be co-hosted in South Africa and Australia with the long-term goal to provide an extremely large antenna area (~1,000,000 m2) with the SKA. Even in the version currently being planned and prepared by the organization, the SKA will be an instrument unrivaled in combination of sensitivity and „survey speed“. However, its realization will place the highest demands on the development and mass production of the individual antenna components and their quality management.

It will be a next-generation software telescope, requiring one of the fastest computers in the world, with 1018 computational operations per second. Raw data processing and subsequent data analysis will require the development of new algorithms and computer architectures that will lead the way in the age of „Big Data“.

An extremely large field of view will enable 1,000,000 times faster sky mapping. In addition, the final extent of the individual antenna systems over the African continent of more than 3,000 km allows accurate mapping of the sky. This requires a data network and data transport that meet the highest quality standards and allow for maximum flexibility, as even the planned sub-component of the SKA will produce 10 times more data traffic than the current total data flow of the „World Wide Web“.

The modular character allows to operate sub-components of the telescope separately and thus to perform several tasks, which do not require the highest sensitivity, simultaneously and independently from each other. This means that the construction and conceptual design requires a scalable and decentralized power supply far from civilization.

More information about SKA can be found at the SKA organization web page