The Square Kilometre Array: a radio telescope for the 21st century

Professor Phil Diamond CBE

skao hq at jodrell bank cheshire manchester lit and phil event
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Date and time
8 October 2024
6.30 pm

International Anthony Burgess Foundation
3 Cambridge Street
M1 5BY
Get directions

£15.00 (non-members)

Wheelchair accessible



Hear about the truly astounding next-generation radio telescopes, built by a global consortium anchored in North West England, from one of the project’s leaders.

What are radio telescopes exactly? And why is the history and development of them particularly significant to our region?

Radio telescopes are used by astronomers to study radio waves emitted by distant objects in the universe. They can be used in the daytime as well as at night and are less sensitive to atmospheric conditions.

Since astronomical radio sources – planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies – are extremely distant, the radio waves coming from them are very weak. Moreover, radio waves have long wavelengths relative to optical waves. For these reasons, radio telescopes need large antennae and highly sensitive receiving equipment. It is also better to locate radio observatories as far as possible from centres of population to avoid interference from man-made electronic devices.

The world-famous Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire – which has a large single dish antenna – meets these criteria and has been used to make significant contributions to radio astronomy over the years. How has the technology developed since the Lovell was completed in 1957?

Rather than being based on a single antenna, the latest generation of radio telescopes use arrays of antennae that are linked together to form the equivalent of a much larger single antenna. Over the last three decades, astronomers and engineers from around the world have been planning, designing and, finally, building two huge, next-generation radio telescopes. One is located in the Karoo in South Africa, the other in the Murchison region of Western Australia. The whole project is run by the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO), whose headquarters are located at Jodrell Bank.

Phil Diamond’s talk will provide insights into the scientific motivations behind the SKA, covering subjects as diverse as the evolution of the Universe and the origins of life. He will describe the history of the project, in which Manchester and Jodrell Bank play a key role, and explain some of the differences between SKAO and traditional observatories, both optical and radio. As an example, one of the key differences is the sheer volumes of data that will be generated. What are the strategies and techniques being developed to manage this oncoming deluge of data? Phil will talk to us about that. And we’ll also get the chance to see the latest images of the construction progress, which is now at a very exciting phase.

Don’t miss out on what promises to be a brilliant talk by a multi-award-winning scientist from the University of Manchester. The event is open to anyone interested in science and technology and you don’t need any specialist knowledge to enjoy it.

professor phil diamond cbe

Professor Phil Diamond CBE

Professor Philip Diamond CBE is the Director-General of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO). Since October 2012, Phil has led the team designing and constructing one of the largest scientific projects on Earth – an array of cutting-edge radio telescopes and antennas in remote areas of South Africa and Australia. SKAO will be the world’s leading research infrastructure for radio astronomy, providing future science capabilities to the international astronomical community.

Phil has been responsible for both Manchester University’s Jodrell Bank Lovell Telescope and the eMERLIN/VLBI National facility in roles as Director of MERLIN and Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. He was the Chief of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS) in Australia, overseeing the operations of national major radio astronomy facilities.

His research interests include studies of star birth and death, high resolution studies of supernovae and discs of molecular gas rotating around super-massive black holes. He has published over 300 research papers in astronomy and was awarded the CBE for Services to Radio Astronomy in January 2024.

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