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Press Release: Australia Ratifies SKA Observatory Convention

Canberra, Australia, 29 September 2020 – Australia, the future home of the SKA’s low-frequency telescope, has ratified the Convention Establishing the SKA Observatory.

Australia is the fourth country to complete its national process of ratification, joining the Netherlands, Italy and fellow SKA telescope host country South Africa.

The Convention, signed by seven countries in Rome on 12 March 2019, establishes the SKA Observatory – the intergovernmental organisation responsible for building and operating the SKA telescopes. It enters into force once five countries, including the three hosts Australia, South Africa and the UK, ratify the text. With the UK expected to complete its ratification in the coming weeks, it is hoped the SKA Observatory will come into being before the end of the year.

“I am delighted that Australia has ratified the SKA Observatory Convention,” said SKA Director-General Prof. Philip Diamond. “Australia’s commitment to the SKA has been steadfast since the early days of the project. We are now in the very strong position to push forward with both our telescope host countries having completed the ratification process.”

The country is home to two SKA precursor telescopes located on site at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia: CSIRO’s 36-dish Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP), and the Murchison Widefield Array, an international collaboration involving 21 institutions. These facilities are carrying out world-class research and providing invaluable science and technology insights for the development of the SKA.

Australian Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, announced the ratification, saying that the SKA project is a “great example of how science and technology can drive industry forward, to grow our economy and create the jobs of tomorrow”.

Australia has a long history of leading in radio astronomy. As well as ASKAP and MWA, it is also home to the iconic Parkes telescope, an SKA pathfinder and second largest steerable radio telescope in the southern hemisphere. Scientists based at Australian institutions are active in all 14 of the SKA’s Science Working Groups and Focus Groups, and Australian institutions are deeply involved in technology development, in particular instrumentation, data processing and high-performance computing.

Prof. Diamond adds. “The continued progress of the SKA Project this year reflects the firm support of governments for fundamental research even in the face of a pandemic. This commitment has not only borne fruit in the fight against COVID-19 but will also be key to supporting the economic recovery of our member states as they emerge from this crisis.”

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