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South Africa, Australia to Split SKA Telescope Site

The Square Kilometer Array - the world's largest radio telescope - will be shared between the two construction sites
 Australia and South Africa will both host the project
 
 

The international organization behind the 1.5 billion-euro Square Kilometer Array project has decided to split construction of the massive telescope between construction sites in Australia and South Africa.

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) is a massive phased telescope array that will radically advance imaging capabilities for astronomers and allow for some game-changing experiments in physics and other sciences. Two bids for the construction of the Array were competing for building rights – Karoo, South Africa and Boolardy, Australia – until the 20-country consortium announced plans for shared sites.

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The telescopic array is planned to break ground in 2016, with a completion date of 2024. Vast electronic infrastructure work will be needed for the project, which will have more bandwidth capacity than the current load of global internet traffic – allowing for 10,000 times the speed of similar radio instruments currently in operation.

"We have decided on a dual site approach," SKA board chairman Prof John Womersley told a news conference in Amsterdam. Both Australia and South Africa have started building precursor facilities to better their chances at winning the bid, and both sites will be utilized in future construction efforts, with mid-frequency arrays allocated to South Africa and low-frequency antennas positioned in Australia.

The SKA will help scientists precisely map over a billion nearby galaxies, and help reveal the structure of the cosmos and potentially some new insight into ‘dark energy,’ the mysterious force permeating and expanding the universe at increasing rates. “Science is the winner,” added Womersley.

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