South Africa Optimistic About Radio Telescope Bid

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SKA will be the worlds largest radio telescope

Billoins of rands will flow into South Africa if it and eight African partner countries win the bid to host the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.

Department of Science and Technology director-general Phil Mjwara told the country’s parliamentary porfolio committee on science and technology yesterday that South Africa’s bid document was fired off to the radio telescope’s site advisory committee in September after more than eight years of hard work.

The other contender for providing a site for the powerful telescope is Australia. The winner is expected to be announced in April.

The telescope will consist of about 3000 antennae. Signals from the antennae will be sent through fibre-optic cables to a central computer which will produce a picture.

A site in the Karoo, in Northern Cape, will be home to the core of the telescope if the bid is successful.

Namibia will have three antenna stations, Botswana four and Mozambique, Mauritius, Madagascar, Kenya, Zambia and Ghana one each.

The telescope will have the capacity to observe the first-formed black holes, stars and galaxies. It will also be on the lookout for signs of life on other planets.

Yesterday, local Square Kilometre Array team leader Bernie Faranoff said the team had met the site advisory committee in the UK in December.

“We thought [our presentation] went well but they were not giving anything away. That was just our impression. We hope we’re right,” said Faranoff yesterday.

“We were expecting the technical report from the site advisory committee today but it appears it has been delayed. We’re not sure when it will reach us.”

After the site advisory committee has made its recommendations, a host of meetings, consultations and deliberations will take place.

Val Munsami, the department’s deputy director-general for research, development and innovation, said Square Kilometre Array member countries – including China, Italy, the UK and the Netherlands – would decide where the telescope will be hosted when they meet in two month s.

If Australia loses out , South Africa’s economy could receive a major boost.

Mjwara said there would also be a massive influx of intellectual capital.

Mjwara said it “would not be an exaggeration” to say that the telescope would provide a multibillion-rand boost to the country.