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Let’s Talk About… SKA science

Want to learn about the SKAO’s science goals from some of the many experts in our global community? Since 2019, we have been exploring a different astronomy topic in each issue of the SKAO’s magazine, Contact, with the help of members of the SKAO’s Science Working Groups.

Explore the Universe with them through the articles below!

Black holes

“Black holes seem to be where our physics laws break.”

Discover how the SKA telescopes will find black holes and use them to test one of the best known theories in physics, Einstein’s general theory of relativity, alongside experts Prof. Tao An of Shanghai Astronomical Observatory in China, and Pikky Atri, a PhD student at ICRAR in Australia. Read on mobile.


Fast radio bursts

Fast radio bursts don’t give up their secrets easily.
These intense millisecond flashes of radio waves are often in the headlines, and the SKA telescopes will be able to find more of them than ever before. Hear about what we do know (and what we don’t) from experts Prof. Vicky Kaspi of McGill University in Canada and Dr Jason Hessels of the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Read on mobile.


Cosmic magnetism

“As far as we can tell, everything in the Universe is magnetic, or at least co-exists with magnetic fields.”

Magnetism pervades the cosmos, and the SKA telescopes will seek to map the vast magnetic structure which connects the Universe on the grandest scales. Magnetism specialists Dr Valentina Vacca of INAF in Italy, and Dr George Heald of CSIRO in Australia, talk us through it. Read on mobile.


Gravitational waves

Gravitational waves distort space-time, causing rulers to change length and clocks to change ticking rate.

They can’t be seen directly, but the SKA telescopes will be able to detect them via their effect on other objects, to a degree of accuracy never possible in the past. We unravel this mind-boggling topic with the help of Assistant Prof. Lijing Shao of Peking University in China. Read on mobile.


The origins of life

“Carl Sagan once said: ‘We are all made of stardust.’ And he was right.”

The search is on for complex organic molecules in space which could, given the right set of conditions, lead to life forming. Dr Izaskun Jimenez-Serra of Spain’s Centre for Astrobiology and SKAO Project Scientist Dr Tyler Bourke explain how the SKA telescopes will detect these molecules, and watch potentially habitable planets emerging around distant stars. Read on mobile.



Are we alone in the Universe?

That’s the simple question behind the search of extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI), a favourite topic for sci-fi fans. SETI studies focus on looking for signals from alien technology, something uniquely well-suited to radio astronomy. Experts Dr Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute and Dr Steve Croft of the Berkeley SETI Research Center in the United States explain how the SKA telescopes’ size and sensitivity will help the search. Read on mobile.


The dawn of the Universe

Imagine if you could look back to when the first stars and galaxies began to light up the darkness.

The SKA-Low telescope in Australia is designed to detect the exceptionally weak, low-frequency signals from this period, and to map it in exquisite detail for the first time. Prof. Leon Koopmans of Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in the Netherlands and SKAO Project Scientist Dr Jeff Wagg explain how this will transform our understanding of the Universe. Read on mobile.


Galaxy evolution

How do galaxies form and why are some of their fates so different to others?
The beautiful, violent and in some cases still mysterious processes which take place over billions of years will be studied in detail by the SKA telescopes in the radio band, and complemented by the much-anticipated James Webb Space Telescope in the infrared. Join Dr Mark Sargent of the International Space Science Institute in Switzerland, SKAO Project Scientist Dr Anna Bonaldi, and Dr Nick Seymour of Curtin University in Australia to learn more. Read on mobile.