30Sep2016

Radio Astronomy Takes The Aussie Spotlight

The SKA Wants Young Aussie Scientists

The SKA Wants Young Aussie Scientists

Australia, long a leader in radio astronomy, is maintaining its premier position with the world’s largest and most innovative radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The SKA, to be built in Western Australia, is a collection of telescopes or instruments—hence the name ‘array’—which will be spread out across the state’s vast outback, and will be used by scientists to investigate fundamental scientific questions about the universe.

Radio astronomy takes the spotlight

Peter Klinken: SKA has huge implications

The design, construction and operation of the SKA will be overseen by the international SKA Organisation, which has ten countries as full members, including Australia. Construction will start in 2018, with Australia and South Africa each host components. The first observations are expected in 2020.

Western Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Peter Klinken says the implications of the project for Australia and the state is huge—and he is calling it a ‘VIP’ project: ‘V’ for vision, ‘I’ for investment, and ‘P’ for planning.

His role as Chief Scientist is to provide advice on topics that are important to the future of science and economic prosperity in Western Australia. “Having the world’s largest and most advanced radio telescope also means that we will host one world’s largest supercomputers,” he said.

“It will grow from 1 petaflop to 100 petaflops in the next five years, as we need to be able to cope with the huge volume of data that will be generated by the SKA. It puts us in a unique position when it comes to big data and analytics.”

Radio astronomy is one of the five priorities identified for scientific research in a Science Statement for Western Australia that was released last year. These are based on areas where Western Australia has a comparative advantage and a strong base of research and industrial capability. The other four priorities are mining and energy, agriculture and food, medical and health, and biodiversity and marine science.

While the state has always been focused and reliant on the mining, oil and gas, and agricultural sectors—and is likely to continue to do so—Professor Klinken believes it is imperative that it explores other areas to supplement and diversify to be a more balanced economy. Source: InnovationsAus.com

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