Ghana telescope to help African, European scientists

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor says the launch of a 32 metre radio telescope in Ghana on Thursday will help improve collaboration between African and European astronomers.

The Minister said this when she chaired the SKA African Ministerial Forum at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra on Thursday morning ahead of the launch of the Ghana Radio Astronomy Observatory later in the day.

The Minister said as the work of the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network, South Africa and along with eight member countries that are part of the Square Kilometre Array project – Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Magadascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia – will add to the science that can be conducted by a global network of radio telescopes.

The African Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Network (AVN) is an Africa-owned network of VLBI - capable radio telescopes on the African continent that are aimed at strengthening the science which the international VLBI community can do.

“This network will enable South Africa to make highly detailed images of radio sources in the universe.

“As you know, the 26-metre dish at one of our National Research Foundation's key national facilities, the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory…is part of this network.

“The science being done by this global Very Long Baseline Interferometry, or VLBI, Network is frontier astronomy,” she said.

Minister Pandor said, however, that there is a significant gap in the global network between the Hartebeesthoek radio telescope and the European VLBI network, as there are no other dishes in Africa as part of the global network.

“The African VLBI Network will help to close this gap, and will also strengthen collaboration between astronomers in Africa and astronomers in Europe, North America, South America, China and South Korea.

“Ghana is first. Ghana has filled the gap. Ghana has used its own skilled people to build and refit a radio telescope. Much of the work involved local industries: replacing the pintle bearing pads, replacing stow pin structures, replacing quad leg structures, and repairing panels damaged by high winds and ageing,” she said.

Research infrastructure sways the attention of decision makers to science and technology

Minister Pandor said, meanwhile, that global research infrastructure projects play an invaluable role “in focusing the attention of policy and decision-makers as well as the broader public on science and technology”.

“They are an excellent vehicle for encouraging the youth’s interest in science and technology careers.

“Global research infrastructure projects enjoy ‘flagship’ status, largely as a result of their scope and their large scale, and concurrently also command high levels of public interest. It is important to consider how these attributes could best be leveraged in the interest of global science,” she said.

Ghana’s Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, said the SKA project was a big opportunity for Ghana and South Africa to work more closely together.

He said scientists, computer scientists, astronomers and engineers in Ghana were already undergoing training in South Africa.

“We in Ghana should be careful not to regard this cooperation as a one way affair. We should develop our local absorptive capacity to assimilate the skills and technologies that we are acquiring.

“We should not continue to make the mistake that industrialisation is inviting or attracting foreign companies to set up factories in Ghana.

“We should be part of the process by developing the capacity to absorb, apply, maintain and replicate any technology,” he said.

He said localisation should be prioritised.

“The so called local content or local participation should not just refer to local cheap labour and lower level skill activities but should involve high-tech and high-end skills as well.

“I wish to remind all the Ghana engineers, scientists, technicians, astronomers and computer scientists to be conscious of these facts. They should have the uncompromising determination, not only to succeed but also to transfer their knowledge and skills to the next generation,” he said.  – SAnews.gov.za

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