SA unlikely to partner with Aus over SKA

2012-10-12 08:30
Minister of science and technology Derek Hanekom leans on one of the KAT 7 radio antenna dishes on the site of the SKA outside Carnarvon. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Minister of science and technology Derek Hanekom leans on one of the KAT 7 radio antenna dishes on the site of the SKA outside Carnarvon. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Understanding the SKA

2012-10-12 10:29

Watch this animation to understand the Square Kilometre Array telescope and SA's importance of hosting the largest science experiment in human history. WATCH

Carnarvon - Despite South Africa and Australia having to share the massive Square Kilometre Array telescope, it is unlikely that there will be much co-operation in the construction phase.

SA is building the MeerKAT which will consist of 64 linked radio antennas while the Australians are constructing the Askap (Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder) instrument.

"On the technology, that is the construction of the two pathfinders, we're using two different technologies. They use a technology that is different to what we're using, so the chance of collaborating on that is very small," Dr Phil Mjwara Director General of the department of science and technology told News24.

Both countries vied to host the largest science experiment in human history, and built demonstration test beds to illustrate local capability.

The KAT 7 (Karoo Array Telescope) consists of seven linked radio telescopes in the Northern Cape province and is the precursor to the MeerKAT which will consist of 64 instruments.


The Askap consists of 36 antennas and was built with significant support from China.

"The low frequency array they are building is also different instrument, compared to the dish array we are building," said Mjwara

The design for the MeerKAT was changed to align with the requirements for the SKA and it is likely that the Australian share of the project will have to conform to the accepted standards when they are implemented.

"On the Askap, they've decided to use a design they have agreed with the Chinese companies and it's completely different to ours and it’s not the SKA as far as the dishes are concerned," Mjwara said.

The SKA will give astronomers an unprecedented view of the early universe and allow for a better understanding on the formation of galaxies shortly after the Big Bang.

The project is scheduled for completion by 2024 and is estimated to cost around €1.5bn, but there are significant challenges that remain.

Much of the technology to ensure the integrity of the data does not yet exist and engineers in SA have been working with local and international partners to solve of some of the problems of building the telescope.

"I think the realisation has now come to people that this is a project that is much, much bigger than anything that has been built before," said SKA SA project manager Dr Bernie Fanaroff.

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