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The Netherlands makes €30m commitment to future SKA Observatory

Presentation of the Gemini board to to Science Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven in June 2018 by ASTRON engineers Gijs Schoonderbeek and Paula Fusiara. The Gemini board, developed by ASTRON in collaboration with Australia’s CSIRO and Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, is designed to process the huge volume of data from the SKA-low telescope. (Credit: ASTRON)

SKA Organisation Headquarters, Jodrell Bank, UK, 28 January 2019 – The Netherlands has announced it will sign the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Convention at a ceremony to be held in Rome, Italy on 12th March. The Netherlands also confirmed an initial commitment of €30 million to the future SKA Observatory, solidifying its support for the international project.

The convention will establish the SKA Observatory as an inter-governmental organisation responsible for delivering the construction and operation of the SKA, poised to be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world. Once established, the Observatory will take over from the current SKA Organisation, which has managed the design phase of the multinational endeavour.

At present, six countries have confirmed their intent to sign the treaty at the ceremony in March including the SKA’s three host countries (Australia, South Africa and the UK, the latter hosting the Headquarters), Italy (which has been leading the 3+-year long negotiation process), Portugal and the Netherlands. Other current member countries of the SKA Organisation are pursuing their own internal processes and are expected to join the founding group of the SKA Observatory at a later stage.

“This is an extremely welcome announcement coming from our Dutch partners,” said Prof. Philip Diamond, Director-General of the SKA Organisation. “Investing in large-scale projects like the SKA has many benefits for the participating countries, from access to world-class facilities for their scientific community, to bidding for contracts for their industry and developing a competitive edge through innovations in high-technology. It is good to see that the Dutch government, alongside our other partners that are expected to join the SKA Observatory, recognises the value of being part of one of the most ambitious science endeavours of the 21st century.”

As an existing member of the SKAO, the Netherlands has already made significant contributions to the science and engineering effort behind the SKA, and today’s announcement confirms the country’s long-term commitment to the project. The funding contribution has been allocated by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

“These are exciting times for us”, says Prof. Carole Jackson, Director General of the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON), which coordinates the Dutch participation in the SKA. “The Netherlands will be a full partner in this massive global telescope to probe some of the mysteries of the Universe. We are thrilled that the Government has decided to invest in this way.”

Read the full release on the ASTRON website here.