SKA opens UK headquarters

2013-05-08 11:00
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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KAT 7 operation

2012-10-15 08:31

MeerKAT project manager Willem Esterhuyse chats about the operation of the KAT 7 in the Northern Cape in this YouTube video.WATCH

Cape Town - The Square Kilometre Array Organisation has opened its international headquarters in the UK as it pushes to complete the construction of the giant scientific instrument.

"The SKA Organisation headquarters, located near to, and with views of the iconic Lovell Telescope at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK, will be the central control hub for a global team who, over the next decade, will be building the SKA - the largest radio telescope ever seen on Earth," the organisation said.

The building was opened on Wednesday by several dignitaries, including the UK Minister for Universities and Science the Right Honourable David Willetts MP.

"The Square Kilometre Array is set to be one of the world's most exciting international science projects, giving us new and unparalleled insights into the universe", said Willetts.

"The fact that the UK has been chosen to host the project office is recognition of our leading expertise in science, engineering and design. It will give us a leading role in the development and operation of this groundbreaking telescope," he added.

Non-profit company

The £3.34m ($5.1m) building was funded by the University of Manchester and will eventually house a staff of 60, including those visiting from other countries.

The SKA will consist on around 3 000 linked radio telescopes that will allow astronomers to gaze back at the early universe, about 13bn years ago, shortly after the Big Bang.

The instrument will be built near the town of Carnarvon in the Northern Cape province and in Australia after both countries submitted compelling bids for the project estimated to cost €1.5bn and scheduled for completion in 2024.

"The opening of the SKA headquarters at Jodrell Bank means that the world's largest radio telescope now has a home in the UK - a major milestone for this truly inspirational international science project to explore the origin and evolution of the Universe", said John Womersley, chair of the SKA Organisation.

Several countries have signed up to the SKA Organisation, which was formalised as a non-profit company in December 2011. They include Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand and SA.

Prior to the rollout of the SKA, SA is developing the MeerKAT (Karoo Array Telescope) which will consist of 64 telescopes and is expected to be incorporated into the SKA when it is completed in 2016.

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Read more on:    ska  |  astronomy

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