With WA and Southern Africa bidding to be the sites for the world's largest radio telescope, the $2 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a five-day conference beginning on Monday (March 31) at The University of Western Australia will feature work by Australian and international astronomers on SKA-related science and technology.
The meeting, to be attended by more than 160 of the world's top radio astronomy experts, including over 100 from about a dozen different countries, will focus on the SKA Pathfinder telescopes that will be up and running well in advance of the full SKA.
The conference will provide WA with the chance to publicise its new presence in radio astronomy, thanks to two new UWA Premier's Fellows, post-doctoral scholars, graduate students and a recently announced International Radio Astronomy Research Centre which the University intends to lead.
The SKA, a massive, revolutionary radio telescope, will deliver information about the formation of stars and galaxies just after the big bang, enabling scientists to look back far in time. The SKA, to be built by 2020, will be one of the world's biggest science projects.
One of the highlights of the conference will be a progress report on the $100 million Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope to be built by CSIRO in the State's Murchison region starting in 2009. ASKAP will be the largest radio telescope in Australia and will produce more new data in the first six hours of its operation than all other radio telescopes combined.
Professor Lister Staveley-Smith and Professor Peter Quinn, based in UWA's Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences, are organising the conference.
"The Pathfinder project and SKA will boost the State's and the nation's international standing in science and provide a significant boost to high tech industries," Professor Quinn said.
Professor Staveley-Smith said the SKA and SKA pathfinders will profoundly change our knowledge of the formation and evolution of galaxies in the early Universe.