Canada announces intention to become full member of international SKAO radio astronomy project
Canadian astronomers will have access to one of the world's leading facilities, further strengthening Canada's international reputation in astronomical discovery
January 24, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – National Research Council of Canada
The study of astronomy is critical to advance our understanding of our Universe, and Canada is a leader in this field of discovery and innovation. Through strong collaboration with industry, academia, government and international partners, the Government of Canada is committed to supporting its world-class astronomy and astrophysics community and laying the foundation for the next great discovery.
Today, the Honourable François‑Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced Canada's intention to proceed to full membership in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO). The SKAO facility will enable discoveries that will revolutionize our understanding of the Universe, the fundamental laws of physics and the prospects for life on other planets.
Full membership is expected to provide Canadian astronomers a 6 per cent use-share of the observatory, access to a next-generation radio astronomy facility, and support the establishment of a domestic regional centre. This centre will provide direct connections to data collected with the telescope as well as science support to enable ground-breaking discoveries.
The Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) will represent Canada in the governance of the SKAO and will work with domestic and international partners to deliver key observatory systems. The Centre is a highly regarded research centre with the longstanding role of providing radio telescopes and components to international observatories.
The official signing ceremony and other steps necessary to complete the membership process are anticipated to take place in the coming months.
"By working with our international partners, we can solidify our scientific expertise and ensure Canada stays at the leading edge of astronomy and astrophysics. Canadian contributions to the SKAO could lead to new opportunities for Canadian businesses and, more so, for our scientists. By combining our resources, knowledge and experience, we are one step closer to understanding the mysteries of the Universe."
– The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
"The SKAO will enable transformational science about the Universe, the fundamental laws of physics and the prospects for life beyond our Solar System. Our full membership will maximize Canada's recognized capabilities in astronomy and scientific computing platforms. It will also increase our engagement and impact in research and innovation, digital technologies and next-generation communication systems."
– Iain Stewart, President, National Research Council of Canada
The SKAO is a next-generation radio astronomy observatory, bringing together nations from around the world to build and operate cutting-edge radio telescopes.
In November 2021, the NRC signed a 2-year cooperation agreement with the SKAO, to allow Canada's scientific and engineering communities to continue participation in the project, while membership was given full consideration by the federal government.
SKAO will operate 2 telescopes on 2 continents (Australia and South Africa), with headquarters in the United Kingdom. The initial phase of the SKAO consists of 197 radio dishes located in South Africa and 131,072 antennas located in Australia. Construction on Phase 1 began in June 2021 and is expected to be completed by 2029.
SKAO and its host country partner institutions have led extensive consultations with the local and Indigenous populations where both telescopes are located.
Respecting Indigenous cultures and the local populations, and engaging positively with these communities, has been a key consideration since the inception of the SKAO. These core principles are fully aligned with the priorities of the Canadian astronomical community as expressed in the Canadian Astronomy Long Range Plan 2020-2030.
Senior Manager, Communications
Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
National Research Council of Canada
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