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12 M€ For Netherlands Contribution To Design Of The Square Kilometre Array

1 July 2014, Leiden, the Netherlands – A consortium consisting of ASTRON and the Universities of Amsterdam, Groningen, Leiden and Nijmegen has been awarded 12M€ for their participation in the design of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The SKA will be the world’s largest and most powerful radio telescope. Construction will start in 2018 in Australia and South Africa, and the first results are expected in 2020.

The announcement of funding from the second call of the Netherlands Roadmap for Large-Scale Research Facilities was made by Sander Dekker, the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science, and Jos Engelen, chair of the Governing Board of Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) at an event in Leiden.

Nationale Roadmap MinOCW / NWO

The photograph shows the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science and Chair of the Governing Board of NWO with the five lead investigators of the proposal: (from left to right) State Secretary Sander Dekker, Michiel van Haarlem (ASTRON), Ralph Wijers (Amsterdam), Heino Falcke (Nijmegen), Leon Koopmans (Groningen) Huub Röttgering (Leiden) and NWO Chair Jos Engelen.

The SKA Project is an international effort to design and build a telescope composed of hundreds of dishes and hundreds of thousands of antennas connected by optical fibre to massive data processing facilities. It will address questions that only observations of the Universe at radio wavelengths can answer. The SKA will produce the first images from a time when the first stars and galaxies were forming. It will also use pulsars to detect gravitational radiation and test Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. The extreme flexibility of the SKA will also allow it to detect and identify new transient phenomena, thereby opening a new window on the variable Universe.

Eleven teams – so-called consortia – have been selected to design elements of the telescope, comprising hundreds of people from about 20 countries. ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy is leading the international consortia responsible for the design of the Low Frequency Aperture Array (LFAA) and Mid Frequency Aperture Array (MFFA) – two types of smart antenna that will operate at lower frequencies than the more conventional dishes. The Roadmap funding will also be used to develop the software and hardware required to process the vast amounts of data that will come from the telescope. Astronomers from the NL Universities and ASTRON will be closely involved in these activities, in particular to ensure that the telescope is ready to address the most urgent topics to be studied by astronomers.


Artist rendition of an SKA LFAA (Low Frequency Aperture Array) station. 250,000 of these antennas will survey the radio sky at frequencies between 50 and 350 MHz. Dish telescopes operating at higher frequencies can be seen in the background. Credit: SKA Organisation

The Netherlands has played a major role in radio astronomy over the past 70 years. Experience gained in the construction and operation of the Dwingeloo 25m dish (1956), the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (1970) and most recently the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR, 2010) has equipped both engineers and astronomers to play a leading role in the design of the SKA. Technology development will be carried out in close collaboration with industry. A major challenge facing the consortia is to prepare for the construction phase, which will be on a scale that makes industry involvement essential.

For more information, please contact:

ASTRON: Dr. Michiel van Haarlem, Head of NL SKA Office, phone: +31 651 433 478 (mobile), email: or Truus van den Brink, Office Manager of NL SKA Office, phone: +31 521 595 144 (office) or +31 651 472 491 (mobile), email:

University of Amsterdam: Prof. dr. Ralph Wijers, phone: +31 20 525 7488 (office). Email:

University of Groningen: Prof. dr. Leon Koopmans, phone: +31 50 363 6519 (office). Email:

Leiden University: Prof. dr. Huub Röttgering, phone: +31 71 527 5851 (office). Email:

Radboud University: Prof. dr. Heino Falcke, phone: +31 24 365 2020 (office). Email:

SKA Organisation: William Garnier, Communications and Outreach Manager, phone: +44 7814 908 932. Email:

More information about the SKA Project is available at:

More information about ASTRON and its telescopes, including LOFAR is available at:

ASTRON is part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)