December 1, 2003

SKA & Dark Energy

I went to visit SR in the morning, in his beautiful chaos of an office on the 7th floor.

I wanted to talk to S about the possibility of making radio telescopes out of everyday materials ; radios, wires, junk . . . but soon got sidetracked into his amazing radio telescope world.

S is involved in SKA. That's SKA as in Square Kilometer Array  : to quote the website - "A radio telescope with an effective collecting area more than 30 times greater than the largest telescope ever built will reveal the dawn of galaxy formation, as well as many other new discoveries in all fields of astronomy." 

When it's working, around 2020, it will be so powerful that it will be able to detect air traffic control messages on 310 stars. What that means I guess, is that were there to exist such an earthling phenomena on a planet in the vicinity of one of these stars, then the telescope would be able to pick it up. It won't be quite strong enough to pick up mobile phones. Conversley if the array is configured to broadcast rather then receive then it will be beaming out to 10 to the power 12 stars.

Later I typed"how to build a radio telescope" into google. Bingo !


S introduced me to F who is working with him on SKA and dark energy - "the sexiest thing in astrophysics at the moment !" and in the afternoon he patiently explained, several times, how there is missing energy in the universe or rather that there is not enough observable energy to fit observations of the expansion of the universe. This missing energy is dark energy and the subject of heated debate between the particle physicians on the one hand and the cosmologists on the other - to the tune of a 10 to the power 120 disagreement. SKA will be able to help corroborate one or the other faction.

Posted by Jem Finer at December 1, 2003 9:39 PM