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Sweden’s biggest contribution yet to the SKA ready for testing in Canada

The Band 1 feed in the electronics lab at Onsala Space Observatory. Standing behind the feed horn from the left: Joel Schleeh (Low Noise Factory) with Onsala Space Observatory engineers Magnus Dahlgren, Bhushan Billade (technical project manager) and Jens Dahlström. (Credit: SKA Organisation)

The Band 1 feed in the electronics lab at Onsala Space Observatory. Standing behind the feed horn from the left: Joel Schleeh (Low Noise Factory) with Onsala Space Observatory engineers Magnus Dahlgren, Bhushan Billade (technical project manager) and Jens Dahlström. (Credit: SKA Organisation)

Thursday 16 June 2016, Gothenburg, Sweden – Sweden’s biggest contribution yet to the SKA has passed a major milestone. An advanced feed horn developed at Chalmers University of Technology has been delivered for testing in Canada.

The sensitive feed horn – with an opening almost one metre across, and weighing almost 100 kilograms was built at Onsala Space Observatory and has been delivered in Canada, and will now be tested on one of the antenna prototypes built for SKA at the Canadian National Research Council’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) facility near Penticton, British Columbia, Canada. Similar feed horns will eventually be fitted on each of the 133 dish antennas at the SKA’s South African site in the first phase of deployment of the SKA.

Each of the telescope’s dishes collects faint radio signals from space. The dish’s feed horn, combined with an advanced amplifier, then prepares the radio signal so that it can be analysed by astronomers.

The amplifiers for SKA Band 1 have been specially developed for maximum performance at room temperature. Here Joel Schleeh from Low Noise Factory is holding one of the amplifiers. (Credit: SKA Organisation)

The amplifiers for SKA Band 1 have been specially developed for maximum performance at room temperature. Here Joel Schleeh from Low Noise Factory is holding one of the amplifiers. (Credit: SKA Organisation)

“The amplifier uses nanotechnology to amplify the radio waves with as little noise as possible. Normally, noise reduction means we have to cool the amplifier down to a few degrees above absolute zero. Instead, our bespoke amplifier is integrated directly in the feed horn, which means we can retain the telescope’s sensitivity without using any cooling at all. For SKA this could mean huge savings in energy, maintenance and investment” said Joel Schleeh, engineer at the Gothenburg-based company Low Noise Factory who developed these specially designed amplifiers in collaboration with Onsala Space Observatory and the Gigahertz Centre at Chalmers.

”Our delivery of this feed horn shows that Sweden is making a difference in the international SKA project. We are setting the scene for new insights about our universe, and our origins in the cosmos. At the same time we are creating new opportunities for cutting-edge technology from Sweden to reach the rest of the world”, added John Conway, director of Onsala Space Observatory.
Read the full release from Chalmers here.