Array of Hope

It’s an interesting thing in astronomy that we tend to have a number of sub-communities, and those sub-communities don’t tend to interract that much. One thing that happens to a fair amount of people is to end up working exclusively in one wavelength range. Radio frequency, submillimetre, infrared, optical, ultraviolet, x-ray… As a result, I’m rather naive to radio astronomy. This made things all the more interesting when I got a message on Saturday evening asking if I’d like to attend a meeting on the Square Kilometre Array.

All in all, I’m rather glad I decided to say yes and agreed to attend. Now, I’ll freely admit that I’m a radio astronomy n00b*. So it had managed to escape my attention precisely how big the SKA project is. This is a huge, global effort and when completed, it’s set to be quite simply awesome. I mean that in the truest sense of the word. The plan is to ultimately have a radio interferometer with a radius of up to 3000 km. That’s around 7.5% of the circumference of the Earth! The conference then, as you’d expect, was filled with scientists and engineers from all across the world. The SKA is a long term global effort, and it’s really lovely to see how things like this can bring people together. Amongst all of the interesting science that the SKA will be able to do, there are 5 primary scientific objectives to study: gravitation, galaxy formation and evolution, cosmology and the dark ages of the Universe, astrobiology and origins of life, and cosmic magnetism. Simply, the SKA is going to help us explore the deep unknown recesses of the Universe. And that’s pretty damn exciting!

The entire array is going to take decades to build, and in the meantime, a number of “pathfinder” projects are busy developing all of the technology that it’ll end up using (and doing some excellent science in the process!). Of particular interest to radio wannabes like me, was a talk regarding the EVLA — the Extended Very Large Array, a planned expansion to the VLA in New Mexico. I guess the name “Very Large Array” seems a bit ironic now. But I digress. Interestingly, the EVLA is set to provide support for non-radio astronomers wishing to use it. This could be extremely helpful!

To get some idea of the scale of this thing, here’s a video** which was shown at the conference. The magnitude of it can’t fail to impress!

*And I should really say a huge thank you to Nicole for letting me e-mail her with random dumb questions in the past!

**Feel free to insert your own “video killed the radio star” joke, if you wish.

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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11 Responses to Array of Hope

  1. Anonymous says:

    Amino Acid Images
    I love these particular images of the amino acids serine and proline, and I’d love to find the other amino acids done in this style.
    Can you tell me your image source?

  2. invaderxan says:

    Haha! Yeah, so I saw! How cool is that? :D

  3. invaderxan says:

    Isn’t it just?

  4. invaderxan says:

    Absolutely. It’s nice to know that some plans are still being made in the long term!

  5. invaderxan says:

    Haha! Yeah, Manchester has a habit of precipitating on me when I go there… :P
    (I say “precipitating” because it doesn’t always rain — it snowed once!)

  6. invaderxan says:

    Hahaha! Yeah, no kidding. :)
    (I’m thinking perhaps something by The Specials…)

  7. sandalfon says:

    That takes my breath away and I totally loved the music they put with it. Impressive is such a minute word of description. This is the one thing that really would make me proud of our world. My heart is beating hard, what an incredible feat. I am very very blessed to see what is planned for the future after I’m gone.

  8. cosmorama says:

    Very impressive!

  9. ryttu3k says:

    Hey, check it out! You’re Xenon!

  10. Anonymous says:

    How are you enjoying Manchester?! Wave hello to the grey skies for me ;-)

  11. 6_bleen_7 says:

    I liked the music that went with the video, but the ideal music would have been ska.

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