South Africa and Australia Joint honours in dish project
A battle to host a giant radio telescope - made up of thousands of dishes - has been jointly won by Australia and South Africa.
The Square Kilometre Array telescope will be 50 times more sensitive and scan the sky 10,000 times faster than any existing equipment and is intended to help scientists figure out the make-up of the universe.
South Africa got two of the project’s three major components.
“This marks a real turning point in Africa, where we are becoming a destination for science and engineering and not just a place where there are resources and tourism opportunities,” said Justin Jonas, the chief South African scientist on the project.
Australia, which partnered with New Zealand in bidding for the project, had competed fiercely and welcomed the split decision. “It is an outstanding result for the Australia-New Zealand bid after many years of preparation and an intensive international process,” said Chris Evans, Australia's science minister.
John Womersley, chairman of the board of the international consortium running the project, said the telescope will help scientists answer key questions, such as: “Where do we come from? Where are we going? What is this universe we live in?”
Womersley said that splitting the construction between the two nations will likely add about 10 per cent to the $439 million cost of the first phase of building the giant telescope but that there would be a payoff for astronomers.
“The capabilities of this instrument are greater than the original design,” he said.