SKA: answering the big questions about the universe

MeerKAT SKA antenna 1Once the SKA is up and running, it will be one of the world’s biggest science projects. The MeerKAT project, pictured above, will be integrated into the first phase of the SKA construction in 2018. (Image: SKA South Africa)

Is the universe expanding? What is dark energy? What’s the deal with gravity? And the biggest question of all; are we alone? The Square Kilometre Array, which will aim to answer these questions and more, is slowly taking shape in a remote corner of South Africa’s starry-skied Karoo.

The SKA will exceed the image resolution quality of the Hubble Space Telescope by a factor of 50 and will be able to capture huge areas of the sky. In South Africa, data gathered from all the receivers will be processed locally. The SKA will have a combined collecting surface of one square kilometre, and will be 50 times more sensitive and 10 000 times faster than anything yet built.