Portugal joined the group of founding countries of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). In Rome, on March 12, the treaty establishing the intergovernmental organization that will create what will be the world's largest radio telescope was signed.
Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, and the United Kingdom are also part of the group of founding member countries, to be joined by India and Sweden, which participated in the multilateral negotiations that lasted three and a half years but are still completing internal processes before signing the treaty.
The SKA will be the largest scientific facility on the planet and the second intergovernmental organization dedicated to astronomy in the world, after the European Southern Observatory (ESO). With an infrastructure spread over three continents, in both hemispheres, it will consist of two complexes with hundreds of dishes and thousands of antennas, spread over hundreds of kilometers in Australia and South Africa, and headquartered in the UK.
The observatory will help bridge gaps in our understanding of the universe by allowing astronomers from participating countries to study gravitational waves and test Einstein's theory of relativity in extreme environments, improve our understanding of the evolution of the universe over billions of years, map hundreds of millions of galaxies, and search for signs of life in the universe.
Over the past five years, more than 1,000 engineers and scientists from 20 countries have been involved in projecting the SKA, with new research programs, training initiatives, and collaborations in various countries to train the next generation of scientists and engineers.
From the end of 2020, through construction of the SKA, more than 700 million euros in contracts will begin to be awarded to companies and suppliers in member countries, providing a substantial return on their investment in the project.
Portugal participates in the SKA through the Enabling Green E-Science for Square Kilometer Array infrastructure. The ENGAGE SKA was identified as a high priority in FCT's Roadmap of Research Infrastructures of Strategic Interest, and foresees the testing of prototypes for the SKA in Portuguese territory and the scientific and industrial participation in the SKA.