Representatives from the founding member states of the Square Kilometre Array gathered in Rome yesterday to sign a treaty establishing the SKA Observatory as an intergovernmental organization that will oversee the delivery and operation of the world’s largest radio telescope. Seven countries signed the treaty, including Australia, China, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Dr. Catherine Cesarsky, Chair of the SKA Board of Directors said “Rome wasn’t built in a day. Likewise, designing, building and operating the world’s biggest telescope takes decades of efforts, expertise, innovation, perseverance, and global collaboration. Today we’ve laid the foundations that will enable us to make the SKA a reality.”

The SKA will be the largest science facility on the planet, with infrastructure spread across three continents on both hemispheres. Its two networks of hundreds of dishes and thousands of antennas will be distributed over hundreds of kilometres in Australia and South Africa.

This unique science facility will help address fundamental gaps in our understanding of the Universe, enabling astronomers from its participating countries to study gravitational waves and test Einstein’s theory of relativity in extreme environments, investigate the nature of the mysterious fast radio bursts, improve our understanding of the evolution of the Universe over billions of years, map hundreds of millions of galaxies and look for signs of life in the Universe.

Two of the world’s fastest supercomputers will be needed to process the unprecedented amounts of data emanating from the telescopes, with some 600 petabytes expected to be stored and distributed worldwide to the science community every year. These data will flow to a network of regional centers around the world which will serve as an access gateway and analysis platform for the international astronomy community.

AENEAS, along with parallel efforts in Asia-Pacific, Canada and South Africa have already begun to lay the groundwork needed to design, fund and operate such a global network of distributed computing and storage facilities.

Read full SKA press release.