Are there aliens? What happened immediately after the Big Bang? How to form stars and black holes? These questions express just some of the mysteries could be solved by "the largest scientific project in history": radio telescope Square Kilometer Array (SKA).
What is SKA?
SKA is considered astronomical equivalent of particle accelerator at CERN - a giant project that will try to answer many questions on the origin of the universe, the forces in the universe and even the question "there is intelligent life on other planets?». Created by a collaboration of 67 organizations in 20 countries, SKA will reveal unexplored elements of the universe, providing answers to fundamental questions in physics, astrophysics, astrobiology and cosmology.
Radiotelescoapele explores the universe by detecting electromagnetic radiation emitted by objects in space. This method provides another perspective on the universe from optical telescopes, allowing astronomers to study the parts of space can not be seen with optical telescopes (one example being the portions covered with dust).
SKA will consist of 3,000 satellite dishes, each measuring 15 meters in diameter, and several million complementary receptors, all instruments will collect radio waves emitted by stars, galaxies and quasars.
Antennas will be spread over a wide area, the maximum distance between the antennas is 3,000 km. Large distances between the antennas enable the creation of a virtual receiver with a total area of a square kilometer (hence the name of the project - Square Kilometer Array). Antennas and receivers will be placed in a spiral arrangement, its purpose being the formation of five arms that extend around a nucleus.
Approximately 50% of the antennas and receivers will be placed in the core, which will extend over 5 kilometers, 25% over a distance of 200 kilometers around the nucleus, the rest stretching up to 3,000 kilometers away from the nucleus.
To illustrate the level of detail with which the SKA radio telescope will search the sky, scientists involved in the project explained that the SKA could detect if a planet at a distance of 50 light-years radar is turned on and those on modern airports.
This revolutionary radio telescope will be 50 times more sensitive and 10,000 times faster than any existing telescope today, will one day lead to a few exabytes, or 10 times more data than all data transmitted over the Internet in a one day. For comparison, the largest scientific project in history, the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator produces 100 times less data.
Estimated project cost is huge: 1.5 to 2 billion euros. SKA benefits are as: "This project will have a significant impact on how we perceive our place in the universe and bring new information about past and future of the universe. We know that we discover new things, "said Michiel van Haarlem, Interim CEO of SKA project. A gigantic project, which will develop long-term
To illustrate the size of the project, SKA officials gave the example of the amount of fiber needed for the giant radio telescope: long enough to encircle the Earth twice.
Precisely because the magnitude of the project is an unprecedented radio telescope construction will take place in stages with the SKA to be completed until 2024.
The first stage, the system design was developed and its cost was estimated took place between 2008 and 2012. The next step to be completed shortly, is deciding the place to be built radio telescope.
Gigantic project requires a large area in which interference electronics, mobile phones, and even human intervention is minimized. Were submitted two applications: one of South Africa (supported by Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia) and the consortium consisting of Australia and New Zealand. Both South Africa and Australia have no areas of population and other factors that may affect the telescope, and the battle for the project is fierce. The reason? The winning country will receive tens of millions of dollars in related investments that will support the economy by creating jobs and developing high-tech industries. Also, is almost certain that by 2050, the year is estimated project closure will be the starting point in getting the Nobel prizes, bringing prestige and valuable scientists in the host country.
Decision to be taken on April 3, 2012, but very close competition between the two "sides" led to the postponement decision.
The next step after choosing the location site includes detailed development plan and establish its last details of construction. After this step will be completed in 2016 will start the actual construction of SKA, which will last until 2024. The first experiments will be conducted in 2019, while the radio telescope can be used to full capacity in 2024.
To process the data that will produce consistently SKA telescope will require a supercomputer unimaginable today. Scientists say that the supercomputer SKA will make every second 1018 operations, the equivalent number of stars contained in 3 million the size of the Milky Way galaxy. Processing capacity of this supercomputer will be the 100,000,000 ordinary PCs.
What are the objectives SKA?
SKA project will investigate the deepest mysteries of astronomy on the past, the so-called Dark Ages of the Universe (Dark Ages), before forming the first stars. This stage of the history of the universe covers the period that began about 400,000 years after the Big Bang and ended 800 million years after the event that gave birth to the universe.
At the time, the universe cooled enough to allow formation of molecular hydrogen, which has spread in the universe. Over millions of years, gravity acted on molecules of hydrogen, taking advantage of slightly uneven distribution of the gas to condense into stars, then stars in galaxies and galaxies in clusters (local group of galaxies) and super-clusters.
Over time, radiation emitted by newly created stars have ionized hydrogen free process that led to reionizarea entire universe about one billion years after Big Bang. Because neutral hydrogen emit a wavelength of 21 cm and ionized hydrogen does not do so, SKA will be able to study in detail the history of the universe by detecting the radiation and the areas where it is absent.
By developing a "map" that includes the distribution of cosmic hydrogen, astronomers can study how galaxies are formed and evolve and will understand what is truly "dark energy" mysterious force driving the universe to expand at a rate more great. Also, the SKA will allow the study of gravity and relativity theory test under new conditions, looking for "gravitational waves". These waves, whose existence is stated by Einstein's theory, have never been directly detected.
Precision radio telescope SKA will allow the thorough search of extraterrestrial life through the ability to detect very weak signals emitted by other civilizations. Astronomers want to use the SKA to accurately calculate the position of the nearest 100 million galaxies. Also, scientists will search the space of complex molecules that led to the emergence of life on Earth.
Beyond these projects, the tools included in the world's most powerful telescope can be used in various research so that scientists are convinced that there will be unexpected discoveries.
SKA project effort for realization are comparable to those that have led to great wonders of humanity, but its results will be unprecedented: a better understanding of the forces of the universe and perhaps the discovery of extraterrestrial civilizations.