WA radio telescope preparations complete

Emily Cosenza

After seven years of design and prototype development, construction of Western Australia's Square Kilometre Array is drawing closer with work to start next year.

Engineering and development works are now complete for the Murchison Widefield Array, located about 800km north of Perth, which will be made up of more than 130,000 individual radio antennas.

They will eventually be linked to 197 dishes located in South Africa to complete the array project, which has a multibillion-dollar budget over the next 10 years.

Together the facilities, built as part of a collaboration by 14 countries, will become one of the world's largest science facilities, exploring the history and evolution of the universe, and uncovering advances in fundamental physics.

Project leader Steven Tingay said Western Australia had placed itself at the forefront of international scientific research.

"We have now passed the last major technical milestone before the international community commences construction of the SKA," Professor Tingay said.

The new array would take the search for the first stars 13 billion years ago, the discovery of missing matter in the universe, and surveys of the galaxy to the next level, the project's statement on Wednesday said.

WA Science Minister Dave Kelly said Western Australians should be proud their state was home to one of the biggest science projects in human history.

"Since 2009, the WA government funded $71 million to attract the SKA to Western Australia and maximise benefits through research, job creation, diversification of the economy and innovation," he said.

"Through this investment, Western Australia has become a global hub for radio astronomy."