Eavesdropping on the cosmos

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New Zealander’s case to co-host the multi-billion dollar international astro­nomical project, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), has moved another step closer with the October launch of AUT University’s High Definition Radio Tel­escope in Warkworth. The 12 m radio telescope is a prototype designed to link with powerful supercomputers processing simultaneous observations over large distances, a technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry. Combining with Australia’s antennas, the overall footprint of this array will exceed 3000 km, mak­ing it the world’s largest—an astounding 100 times leap in sensitivity over any ex­isting radio telescope.

Radio telescopes can see through cos­mic dust and gas which are opaque to op­tical telescopes, making them extremely versatile. And with this level of sensitivity, it is believed that SKA has the wherewithal to unravel many of the deepest questions in astronomy and particle physics. This is big science, on the scale of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, giving our scientists an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of discovery.

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