Germany announces intention to become full SKA Observatory member

by Anim van Wyk on 27 March 2023
On a visit to the SKA-Mid telescope site in South Africa, German Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger announced that the country would pursue full membership of the SKA Observatory (SKAO).

Germany is currently an observer of the SKAO Council. During the site visit, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy Dr Michael Kramer and SKA-Mid Telescope Director Dr Lindsay Magnus celebrated the signing of a cooperation agreement between the SKAO and the country’s Max Planck Society, a non-profit organisation comprising 86 institutes and research facilities. 

The German delegation visited the Northern Cape province on 28 March 2023 to witness progress with the MeerKAT extension project that it sponsors. The project will see 20 SKA-compliant dishes added to the 64-dish South African telescope, an official SKA precursor instrument to which the Max Planck Society had contributed important instrumentation. The party also stopped at the first SKA prototype dish to be erected on the SKA-Mid site, funded by the society too. 

“I hope that the SKA telescopes will provide answers to many questions of physics and society,” said Stark-Watzinger. “That is why I have decided that Germany should join SKAO. In doing so, we are ensuring that Germany will continue to play a leading role in astronomical research.”

During the SKAO’s pre-construction phase, Germany was involved in six of the 11 design consortia, and the country’s scientists represented the third largest contributors to the SKA science case. As an SKAO member, Germany intends to contribute €21 million to the project, Stark-Watzinger said.

“One only needs to look around the SKA-Mid telescope site to witness how much the German community has already contributed to the SKA project’s progress,” said Prof. Philip Diamond, Director-General of the SKAO. “I am thrilled that the country wishes to seek full SKAO membership to continue building on their ingenuity from within the member country fold.”

German ministerial visit to the SKA-Mid site
German Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (in cream suit) with leaders from the SKAO and SARAO at the SKA-Mid prototype dish in South Africa's Northern Cape province. Credit: SARAO