Work zone

South Africa broke ground on the world's largest radio telescope. Here are 8 stunning views.

It’s literally massive.

SKAO

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

The JWST may have stolen the spotlight in space, but back on Earth there’s a new record-breaking telescope in the works.

Meet the Square Kilometer Array.

It’s destined to be the largest radio telescope ever built, taking up one cumulative square kilometer (a million square meters) between sites in South Africa and Australia.

SKAO

SKAO

This behemoth of an observatory, named SKA for short, will employ a network of thousands of antennae to detect distant radio frequencies in space.

SKAO

On December 5, researchers and officials celebrated the start of construction at both sites.

The South Africa site will eventually incorporate the existing MeerKAT Radio Observatory to make one giant mega-telescope.

Scientists plan to use the observatory to probe the early universe, search for extraterrestrial life, test Einstein’s theories, and more.

ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Riess et al

The first phase of construction will be complete in 2028.

For now, animations and footage of the construction sites can give us a glimpse into just how massive this new eye on the universe will be.

SARAO

Here are 8 views of the world’s soon-to-be-biggest radio telescope:

Javier Zayas Photography/Moment/Getty Images

8. Almost 200 huge radio dishes are under construction at SKA’s South Africa site. Here’s how it will look after they’re built.

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7. Arranged in a spiral, these dish-shaped antennas are the main feature at the South Africa site, which will detect mid-frequency radio waves.

SKAO

6. Workers on-site build a prototype dish in South Africa.

SARAO

5. The dishes will work in tandem to suss out very faint signals across the universe.

SKAO/Polar Media

4. At SKA’s Australia site, prototypes of tree-like antennas line up in rows against the setting Sun.

Pete Wheeler/ICRAR

ICRAR

3. More than 130,000 antennas are under construction, and will be used to detect low-frequency radio waves.

2. Here’s what the site will look like: a metallic forest of antennas, stretching across the Australian outback.

DISR

1. From its headquarters in the United Kingdom, researchers will be able to remotely monitor the antennas in South Africa and Australia once they’re built.

SKAO/Dragons Eye Filming