Progress in astronomy has always depended on forefront instruments with greater resolving power and sensitivity to reach farther into the universe, and to detect new kinds of objects with unexpected properties. The radio telescopes of the past decades have explored the electromagnetic spectrum far from the traditional optical wavelengths, and have achieved a striking series of discoveries such as pulsars, quasars, gravitational lenses, radio galaxies, and the cosmic microwave background. These have, in turn, proven to be fruitful sources of knowledge about gravitation, nuclear matter, the interstellar medium, high energy phenomena, and have contributed significantly to cosmology.

These new discoveries lead to the conclusion that majot advances in knowledge can be expected from a new radio telescope, two orders of magnitude more sensitive than any existing instrument, with a collecting area of one square kilometer. The scientific advances that can be expected include many urgent topics at the forefront of astronomy. These include cosmology, cosmogony, high-energy astrophysics, fundamental physics, and a wide range of specific topics, including pulsars, X-ray binaries, exoplanetary phenomena, the character of the interstellar medium, and searches for other intelligent civilizations. International studies, by groups in Australia, Canada, China, India, the Netherlands, the United States, and the United Kingdon are examining concepts of the new instrument, generally referred to as the Square Kilometer Array (SKA).

The United States Square Kilometer Array Consortium has been formed for the purpose of coordinating a SKA development program in this country. The SKA design being examined by the US SKA Consortium is one with a large number (of order hundreds to one thousand) “stations” each consisting of an as yet undetermined number of antenna elements. This “Large-N” concept offers considerable advantages, including superb image fidelity and dynamic range, multibeaming, instantaneous imaging, improved interference suppression, flexibility, and expandability.

Current members of the U.S. SKA Consortium are University of California Berkeley, MIT including Haystack Observatory, the SETI Institute, Cornell University including NAIC, Caltech including JPL, the Ohio State University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the University of Minnesota, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Membership is open to institutions that wish to be actively engaged in the SKA development program. Two types of membership are available: full membership with voting privileges and associate membership. New members must be approved by two-thirds vote of the voting representatives.

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