Close Shot: South Africa, Australia To Host World's Largest Radio Telescope

It's official! The final siting decision on the world's largest radio telescope has been announced.

Two bidders, Southern Africa and Australia, who were in the running to host the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope - Square Kilometre Array, or SKA, have both emerged winners, following the decision of the Members of the SKA Organisation to implement a dual-site model for the telescope.

A number of factors like levels of radio frequency interference, long term sustainability of a radio quiet zone, physical characteristics of the site, long distance data network connectivity, operating and infrastructure costs as well as political and working environment were considered during the site selection process.

Square Kilometre Array, to be built at a cost of €1.5 billion, is expected to address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe, including the formation and evolution of the first stars and galaxies after the Big Bang, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity and life beyond Earth.

Around 20 countries are involved in the scientific and technical design of the telescope. The members of the Square Kilometre Array Organization include, Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Southern Africa.

The construction of phase I of the SKA telescope is scheduled to start in 2016. The majority of the 3,000 dish antennas of the SKA project will be built in Southern Africa while low frequency aperture array antennas will be built in Australia / New Zealand.

The SKA is expected to be fully operational by 2024. This revolutionary radio telescope will be 50 times more sensitive, and will survey the sky 10,000 times faster, than any other telescope, according to experts.

Commenting on the dual site solution, Michiel van Haarlem, Interim Director General of the SKA Organisation said, "This hugely important step for the project allows us to progress the design and prepare for the construction phase of the telescope. The SKA will transform our view of the Universe; with it we will see back to the moments after the Big Bang and discover previously unexplored parts of the cosmos."

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