SKA decision imminent

2012-05-24 15:00
A model of the revised MeerKAT dish which is closely aligned to the SKA requirements is seen at the project office in Cape Town. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

A model of the revised MeerKAT dish which is closely aligned to the SKA requirements is seen at the project office in Cape Town. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The government is expecting the final decision from the SKA Organisation on the country to host the massive science project.

The department of science and technology is expecting that the international organisation will make an announcement on whether SA or Australia will win the right to host the project which aims to link over 3 000 radio telescopes and allow astronomers to look 12 billion years back in time.

The organisation will have a meeting on Friday, after which an announcement is expected.

"It is expected that an announcement regarding the preferred site for hosting the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) may be made on Friday 25 May 2012, by the Office of the SKA Organisation, following an SKA Members' General Meeting, to be held at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands," the department told News24.

SA is pushing hard to host the SKA or Square Kilometre Array telescope in the Northern Cape province and has already built the KAT 7 (Karoo Array Telescope) consisting of seven radio telescopes as a test bed for the technology.

Strategic relationships

The government is determined to host the massive project, estimated to cost around €1.5bn, and the ministry has been lobbying key players to ensure that the bid goes to SA.

"We believe that our team has really put in an excellent effort. We think we have an excellent site; we think we have scientists in the country and we believe good research, which will give us those answers we're looking for, can be done on the African continent," minister of science and technology Naledi Pandor told News24 recently.

SA has also signed strategic relationships with a variety of companies like Microsoft, Nokia and Intel to partner in the development of technology for the SKA.

John Womersley, head of the SKA's board of directors, indicated in April that the organisation was considering the idea of a split decision for the project.

"We are seeing if there are ways in which one could install SKA infrastructure in both Australia and South Africa that would make sense scientifically," Womersley said.

A decision was expected on 4 April, but it was delayed following a working group that was set up to investigate a wide variety of options to extract the most benefit from the investment into the SKA.

The Australian media has hinted that placing the SKA in Africa was not a good idea because of political instability on the continent, but the review panel has analysed all factors for the site in their terms of reference.

The decision is expected at around 15:30, South African time.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    naledi pandor  |  astronomy  |  ska

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