SA bids to host powerful radio telescope

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pretoria - The African continent is to celebrate its bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which is deemed to be the world's most powerful radio telescope.

South Africa and Australia are competing to host the multi-billion rand telescope which is about 50 - 100 times more sensitive than any other radio telescope on earth. The SKA will be able to probe the edges of our universe..

Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor and Northern Cape Premier, Hazel Jenkins, will lead a high-level ministerial visit to the SKA site in Carnavon in the Northern Cape next week.

A core component of the country's bid initiative is the design and construction of an operational demonstrator telescope, the MeerKAT. To achieve this objective, the construction of the seven-dish Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7) serves as the MeerKAT precursor array.

Pandor's visit to the Karoo region is in celebration of the successful construction of the seventh and final dish of the KAT-7, which was completed ahead of schedule early this year.

The KAT-7 will serve as both an engineering test-bed and as an operational radio telescope. The MeerKAT will be one of the largest scientific research facilities in the world and will consolidate Africa as a major global hub for astronomy in the world.

Ministerial spokesperson, Lunga Ngqengelele said: "This is a significant milestone, which positions Africa well ahead of Australia, the only other remaining contender in the bid to host SKA.

"It will attract the best scientists and engineers to work in Africa and will provide unrivalled opportunities for scientists and engineers from across Africa to engage with transformational science and cutting-edge instrumentation"