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.